In our western mindset, we often view God as loving and demanding that we love in return. This way of thinking is an integral part of Christian theology for most people. The result of accepting the idea that love is conditional and demands reciprocity, compliance, and conformity is evident in the very fabric of our lives. We see it played out in our literature, our music, our movies, and most importantly in our human relationships.
This inherited, theologically based concept of love is a significant factor in our dysfunctional families. Spouses are irrationally expected to satisfy our every need in the name of love, and our children are supposed to conform to our expectations in order to earn our love and support. We often feel that our kids should rightfully be clones of ourselves, sharing the same thoughts, assumptions, behaviors, and attributes right on into adulthood. If they don't, it means they don't love us back like they are obligated to do.
It is completely natural that a people, steeped in a theology which depicts God as loving but demanding and capable of horrendous, even irrational, anger would reflect those same attributes in their own relationships. When God supposedly demands absolute conformity to His Will and His Way in order to gain and maintain His Love, then those same things define the requirements of love for me. If you want me to love you, you better love me back in the way I require.
I ask myself this question. Does the Bible leave us in the dark about the true definition of love? If it contains a love definition, does that definition square with the one we have inherited from Orthodoxy's picture of the loving God of eternal wrath? I point out I Corinthians 13, in response to this question, and ask you to decide. Was Paul mistaken about how love operates? Was he living in a dream world? If not, something is amiss. Are there two kinds of love, the kind God practices according to Orthodoxy and another that Paul enjoined on his readers? Seems a little strange to me.
When we add the word "conditional" to the word "love", we create an oxymoron, a logical contradiction. We love God because He first loved us (I John 4:19). That original love was obviously unconditional. We then are left to respond to it as we will. If God's love was unconditional in the beginning, how did it become conditional later on? That only happened in our misunderstanding, not in fact.