When we talk about the love of God, we commonly say that His love is unconditional, that there are no strings attached. Like most of our sayings, it certainly contains some truth, but is also ripe for a dangerous misunderstanding if we take it too literally.
God’s love is, absolutely, unconditional. We will never need to worry about “earning” God’s love. As I tell the students in my classroom all the time, when we talk about God’s love being unmerited, we need to be very clear about the fact that this is incredibly good news from two, seemingly opposite, perspectives. On the one hand, it can’t be earned. God hasn’t given us a checklist that we have to complete to show that we deserve Him. In this sense, the love has to be without strings, because we’d never be able to be good enough to demand it from God. The other thing, though, that I find even more incredible is that, if nothing we do can earn it, then it’s also true that nothing we do can lose it. Just as God’s love isn’t given because we are good enough, it also isn’t taken away because we are bad enough.
So yeah, there is definitely a lot of truth in the statement that God’s love is free of strings if we are talking about how it’s given. At the same time, though, it’s totally untrue if we are talking about the effects of God’s love. God’s love is all about strings, but really, so is all love. Love desires a connection between the lover and the beloved. God’s love is no different in that sense. He wants us to be connected, to be bound forever to one another. This isn’t selfish on God’s part, but is instead born out of His knowledge that our happiness can only be found in the confines of those strings that will bind us.