“God is love”, the age-old response to anybody who tries to even remotely question or disagree with the lifestyle of anybody else. This phrase in the rankings is right up there with, “Who are you to judge?” and “Only God can judge me!”, which are all things people who could not care less about God say.
If God is love after all, He must love people, therefore He must love people to love each other. Therefore people loving one another in a committed same sex relationship must be something God approves of. It is such a short trip from “God is love” to “love is love”, so much so that there are actual “theologians” and “preachers” so-called who preach this gospel of love so-called. This idea has gathered so much traction that within the Church of England there is a debate on the definition of marriage, but I digress…
What does “God is love” really mean though? We refer to scripture where the quote comes from,
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
(1 John 4:8–11)
So, a little bit of context around this verse,
First, it tells you exactly why God is love.
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him”
The reason is because God gave His only begotten Son to the world as a propitiation for its sins. In other words, God’s love to the world is the cross of Christ. So a person who has not understood or accepted the gospel does not understand the first thing about the love of God.
If scripturally speaking, the gospel of Christ is the entire context for the love of God, then it stands to reason that the parameters of God’s love cannot be in conflict with the gospel.
“Love is love” works on the assumption that love is a feeling or an emotion. It views love through the tinted roses of romantic feelings of attraction. Biblical love on the other hand is a decision, an act that costs the one it comes from. There is a reason the New Testament emphasizes brotherly love (which, incidentally, the “God is love” scripture is also dealing with) far more than love in the context of marriage.
Love is a character building exercise, where we choose to love people irrespective of the emotions they conjure in us and despite their feelings and actions towards us.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
This verse shifts the emphasis when it comes to love, not on us and our feelings but on God and His act of love. So “God is love” is not Him endorsing and applauding our definitions of love, just rooting us for us to continue in our ways, but rather Him, out of love saving us from our sins by Christ’s cross.
Love is love on the other hand emphasises our feelings and what makes us feel good. At the centre of love is love is the elevation of self above any other competing considerations. The gospel on the other hand, is a dying to self in other to live for Christ, the one who saved us from sin.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Finally, we are admonished to love one another in the way God loved us. It says if God SO loved us, and how did God love us? Through the gospel of Christ (i.e. sending His only begotten to Son to the world as propitiation for sin). So the blue print for Christians loving each other, and by extension, the world, is the cross of Christ, the same confines within which God loved us and loves the world,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”
In other words, in loving the world, Christians are not admonished to endorse or dabble in its ways. Indeed friendship with the world is enmity with God as James says. The gospel should be the over-arching consideration in the Christian’s love for the world. This scripture is in a sense saying what Jesus said about the greatest law which can be paraphrased thus, “Love the Lord with everything first and foremost and then love your neighbour”. Our love for our neighbour cannot be in conflict with our love for God, the latter ought to prevail every single time.
We must love the world as God loves it, by referring it as much as lies within us, in words and in action, to the gospel wherein lies salvation.
What about the second portion of scripture which says God is love?
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
(1 John 4:14–16)
Again, exact same idea as before, the love of God is Him sending His Son as saviour. Only person who understands “God is love” is the one who confesses (i.e. agrees or assents to the fact) that Jesus is the Son of God. Outside that understanding and context, God as love has no meaning.
A brief detour…
Love is love also seems to be based on the idea that feelings of attraction and love make things okay, which is just an irrational viewpoint. Ask a woman who has been cheated on if the fact her husband was in love with the other woman made it okay, ask the same question to children involved in homes broken by adultery, would it be okay for two brothers to get married because they love each other? Can a father have sexual relations with his adult daughter because they are in love? If love is love, why has there been such an uproar from the LGBT community against “Minors Attracted Persons” (who we call Paedophiles in the real world), why can’t a man love a child? It seems love is not love after all, it seems there is an awareness even within that community that not all desires should come under that umbrella, question though is on what basis are these lines drawn? Why is what is sauce for the goose not sauce for the gander?
But again, I digress…
In conclusion, “Love is Love” is in direct conflict with the message of “God is love” therefore the latter cannot be used to justify the former. The latter points us to Christ and His selflessness epitomised in His suffering for sins, the former points us to indulgence of ourselves and gratification of the very tendencies Christ suffered for. It is therefore impossible to in all honesty, simultaneously subscribe to the idea that “God is love” and “love is love”.