Is Unconditional Acceptance the Same as Unconditional Love?

Aug 24, 2023

How the world defines love:

If you were to ask someone how they define love, they might say, "to be accepted completely, no matter what." 

Or, they might say, "to be believed in, supported and trusted through thick and thin." 

I did a little research and found these definitions for unconditional love. As you read them, keep in mind our original question: "Is unconditional acceptance the same as unconditional love?"

"Unconditional love, simply put, is love without strings attached. It’s love you offer freely. You don't base it on what someone does for you in return. You simply love them and want nothing more than their happiness." 

The same article went on to explain the need for boundaries and perhaps even separation from the one you love if they continually hurt you with their behavior, and ended by saying that moving on from that relationship could be an "act of unconditional self-love." 


Another article used the phrase coined by a famous psychologist, Carl Rogers, Unconditional Positive Regard or UCPR. This phrase is used in reference to a child forming their self-image as reflected in their caregiver. When their caregiver (parent or parent figure) treats the child in such a way that they know they are loved, accepted and respected, no matter what they say or do, they have the best opportunity for a positive self-image. 

The article went on to explain the difference between Unconditional Positive Regard with Conditional Negative Regard, and Conditional Positive Regard. It's interesting, you might want to read it. The troubling statement to me was this one, "those who wish to engage in UCPR try to avoid black-and-white thinking when it comes to analyzing right and wrong behavior." Then, I found it interesting that this article also culminated with a focus on showing yourself compassion: 

"Treat yourself to a day of relaxation or a small gift just because you value your own happiness. When you think of one of your behaviors as being "bad" or "wrong," consider that the situation is more nuanced." 

Again, I'm turning my head sideways, with eyebrows lifted and saying, "Huh?"

It seems to me that the writers of these articles try to present love as unconditional acceptance, but in-so-doing they back themselves into a corner where unconditional acceptance results in expressing love to your SELF. This self love looks an awful lot like rejection of the person wounding you.

Let's compare this to what the Bible teaches. 

What the Bible teaches about love:

The Bible teaches that God is love. Look at how I explained this in my book Spiritual Warfare for Your Family, I'm taking the following from Chapter 11, titled "The Devil Doesn't Want You to Know the Power of Love,"

"You are loved! God chose you. He chose you because He's crazy about you! You are loved by God.

How cool is that?!

The God who created the world knit you together in your mother's womb and gave you the breath of life. He loved you so much that He chose to send His own Son to die on the cross so He could have a personal relationship with you.

[Let me insert here that although God sent Jesus to die for the sins of the world, He doesn't accept sinners into heaven. The inexcusable practice of sin compelled God to send Jesus to the cross. There, Jesus paid sin's price. By His stripes we were healed (Isaiah 53:5). That healing applies to our lives when we humbly receive the extravagant gift of salvation He's offering us. When we invite Jesus to save us, we make a complete transaction of ruler-ship in our lives. We step away from the throne and give it to God as an act of complete self-denial and full reliance on the Spirit of God for the rest of our lives. This exchange of ruler-ship in our lives transforms us --by the power of God--into saints!

If we choose to reject, deny the need for, or walk away from God's gift of salvation in determination to live life on our own terms, God will leave us to ourselves, we will remain sinners, and when we die we will not spend eternity with Him.

When that happens we will understand that unconditional love and unconditional acceptance are 2 very different things. To unconditionally accept someone is to diminish them by disregarding the  personal responsibility they have to accept the consequences of their own poor choices. To unconditionally love them is to let them make their own decisions and live with the results of them. 

Now back to the book excerpt regarding God's love.]

Even if no one else were to love you, God chooses to love you.

You are loved.

The fact that you are loved by the Supreme Power of the Universe is no small thing...

Because you are loved, you can love.

You can love the way God loves.

Only those who have a personal relationship with God can love the way God loves.

Others cannot do it.

They may have pieces and reflections of pure love, but they can't love like God. Only God can love like God, and you can love like God when you allow His love to flow through you.

Scripture teaches us that 'God is love.' (I John 4:8). God is not just the demonstrator of love; He is love. Love doesn't define God; God defines love. If you want to know what love is, study God."

In that chapter I then go into what it means for

God's love to go to war:

Love covers a multitude of sins. Where sin gets the upper hand, love has the last word. When you choose love over revenge, or love rather than resentment, bitterness, or score-keeping, you leave room between yourself and the person who hurt you for God to do a great and mighty thing.

I Peter 4:8 says, 'Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.'

Love works (hard)! I Corinthians 13:4-8 describe the hard work of love:

'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.'

This kind of hardworking love is powerful. 

Love is doable.

Love is natural for a Spirit-filled follower of God."

The devil has distorted the meaning of love to orbit around SELF rather than God.

Self-love can be another way of saying self-centeredness. 

Unconditional acceptance can be another way of denying that sin separates us from God and each another.

Unconditional love is best understood in Scripture and as illustrated on the platforms of Christ-centered lives. One of the most beautiful examples of love was shown us in the life of Elisabeth Elliot, who returned to share the love of Christ with the Auca Indians after they killed her husband. She personified I Corinthians 13:4-8: 

(and I'm quoting from chapter 11 in my book again, and in the book I'm quoting the Phillips version of these verses)

"This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience--it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

  Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.

  Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.

You are loved; therefore, you can love. Don't let the devil tell you that your love is weak. The love of God saved your soul while it defeated Satan. The love of God flowing through you to others will continue to save souls, change the world, and bring victory to the war waging in your home." 

My friends, unconditional love and unconditional acceptance are only one and the same if you have your SELF at the center of your world. Unconditional love requires a whole lot of denying SELF. And it's a whole lot easier to deny yourself if you've been crucified with Christ. And crucified with Christ is what we are.


"I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Galatians 2:20 CSB


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