If you only hope for unconditional love from God, your hope is great, but too small.
Unconditional love from God is not the sweetest experience of his love. The sweetest experience is when his love says: “I have made you so much like my Son that I delight to see you and be with you. You are a pleasure to me, because you are so radiant with my glory.”
This sweetest experience is conditional on our transformation into the kind of people whose emotions and choices and actions please God.
Unconditional love is the source and foundation of the human transformation that makes the sweetness of conditional love possible. If God did not love us unconditionally, he would not penetrate our unattractive lives, bring us to faith, unite us to Christ, give us his Spirit, and make us progressively like Jesus.
But when he unconditionally chooses us, and sends Christ to die for us, and regenerates us, he puts in motion an unstoppable process of transformation that makes us glorious. He gives us a splendor to match his favorite kind.
We see this in Ephesians 5:25–26.
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her [unconditional love], that he might sanctify her . . . and present the church to himself in splendor” — the condition in which he delights.
It is unspeakably wonderful that God would unconditionally set his favor on us while we are still unbelieving sinners. The ultimate reason this is wonderful is that this unconditional love brings us into the everlasting enjoyment of his glorious presence. But the apex of that enjoyment is that we not only see his glory, but also reflect it. “The name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in him” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).
This glory that we have in the last day is profoundly pleasing to God. This will not be unconditional love. This will be God’s response to us when he has finished making us “worthy of his calling and fulfilled every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). Then we will receive praise from God (Romans 2:29; 1 Corinthians 4:5).
So put your hope in the unconditional, electing love of God for sure. But don’t stop there. Let that glorious news catapult you into the greater hope that this very love will make you worthy of his calling, glorify you, and fit you to receive the praise of God.