Define Love

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. – 1 John 3:16

A popular theme during Pride Month is “Love is Love.” This phrase implies that love between any two individuals is the same, regardless of what gender or sexual identity they claim.  It’s up to them to define love.

The expectation behind “love is love” is this: I want the freedom to pursue a sexually intimate relationship with whomever I am attracted to without limitation or shame. This implies that we are unloving if we do not approve and applaud their efforts to find this “love.” But do we have the ability to remove someone else’s shame by giving our approval?

In a previous devotional, shame was defined as “the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable or improper.” Those who advocate for “love is love” want to be free of the painful feelings created by their desires. They believe that if enough people honor them and support what they are doing as proper, it will remove their shame. As a result, they see us as unloving if we withhold our approval and affirmation.

This accusation is difficult for Christians to hear because love is central to our beliefs. Yet the Bible doesn’t leave love up to us to define. Instead, it tells us that “God is love” and goes on to explain that God showed his love in sending Jesus into the world “that we might live through him” (1 John 4:8-9).

The Bible defines love by the actions it produces.

The Bible defines love by the actions it produces. God makes his love known by sending his Son to die for our sins. Another well-known verse puts it like this: “God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8 NIV).

So what does “Love is love” demonstrate? It certainly shows acceptance and affirmation of all possible expressions of sexual attraction and identity. But are love and unconditional acceptance the same things?

The Bible would say no. God demonstrated his love for us when we were our most unattractive to him (Eph. 2:3). His love didn’t unconditionally accept us, but instead, he suffered to change us. He loved us by “making us alive” (Eph. 2:4-5) to fulfill the purpose for which we were created (Eph. 2:10).

Understanding love this way has profound implications for responding to “Love is love.” God did not love us because he was attracted to us or because we were attracted to him. Instead, he loved us because we were created in his image to bring glory to him (1 Pet. 2:9). He then demonstrated that love by sending Jesus to die for our sin because, in that condition, we could not fulfill the purpose for which he created us.

If we are to love others as God loved us, we cannot accept that “love is love.” The desire to be intimate with whomever I’m attracted to is contrary to God’s purpose for us. And acceptance from others will never remove the shame we feel from those desires. We need to be accepted by God because of Christ’s death for us.

In place of “Love is love,” God calls us to love as he loved us (1 John 4:11-12). Jesus told us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mat. 5:44). We do that by sacrificing our comfort or status to show respect for them. And we can pray for them to know Christ. By doing that, we participate in God’s work of changing their hearts.

The Pride movement is correct that love is central. But letting anyone define love makes it meaningless. God does not change, so love does not change. Only he can free us from our shame.

How can you sacrifice for someone who opposes you during Pride month?

What does it feel like to pray for that person? How should it feel?

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