From the most conservative to the most liberal, Christians are huge on talking about love. From the pulpits to the small groups, it’s probably the single most often used word in all of Christendom… and for good reason. Love is, in fact, the single word that’s supposed to characterize—better yet, define—the Christian faith.
But, for love to be such a pervasive word, it’s amazing that it’s the one area that so many of us fall dramatically short in. As the body of Christ, we certainly fall short in love when it comes to the subject of homosexuality.
But how exactly should love impact this contentious debate? In what ways should we expect for the climate in the Christian world to change if we really started applying Scripture’s teaching about love to this issue? As Tina Turner so famously asked in her hit song—What’s love got to do with it?
Most of us are familiar with the Bible’s “love chapter”—1Corinthians 13. It’s so called for good reason. It’s the most specific, beautiful description of love in the Bible. It’s only right that I reference it at the offset.
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
The apostle Paul begins his profound teaching on love by first dealing with the widespread misconception that people’s spirituality has anything whatsoever to say about the quality of their love. Being mighty in the power of the Spirit doesn’t mean that a person is walking in love as God would have us to. So inherent to the human condition is this misguided error that Paul addressed it some 2,000 years ago, yet we still find ourselves surrounded by those who hold to this erroneous view. Whether by the conceit in one’s own “spirituality,” or how impressed onlookers get by those with titles, gifts, and charisma, the Church is infected with this delusion in a major way.
I’ll definitely deal with people who walk in spiritual conceit and arrogance because of how God uses them in His kingdom, but I want to begin by criticizing those who are always at the ready, looking for someone to praise and elevate. If Christians would take a more active role in their own spiritual development, they wouldn’t be so easily impressed by the flowing of talents, gifts, and anointings in the body of Christ. Indeed, they’d realize that it’s only by God’s grace that any of us are used, and that He should get all the glory.
I call this the “blind sheep” mentality. It’s dangerous because not only does it put the individual in a perfect position to be duped, taken advantage of, or manipulated, but it also feeds the spiritual conceit that runs rampant in the ministerial ranks. When one of these spiritual high horses takes a nose dive because of some personal failing or other scandal, these blind sheep get disillusioned and either take an unspecified sabbatical from church, or leave altogether, never to return again. God warned us not to put our confidence in man (Psalm 118:8). One of these days, we’ll actually listen.
As for the objects of people’s blind adoration, I have a much stronger rebuke. How dare people think that the power and glory of God upon their lives somehow makes them better than others? The presence of God upon people’s lives is not evidence that those people are wonderful. It’s evidence that God is wonderful—that He loves His people so much that He’d even anoint someone like me—a wretch undone—to minister to them. Imagine that!
As the love chapter says, it doesn’t matter how spiritual you are, or how much God uses you, if you don’t have love. If all you’re after is the adulation of people, or power, you’re not even worth the pulpit you’re standing behind. True love exudes humility, not pride. It’s the antithesis to the Pharisaical spirit.
Paul understood well the temptation to become puffed up because of how magnificently the presence and power of God worked through his ministry. He was well aware of the dangers, and was grateful that God took measures to make sure that he didn’t get too big for his britches.
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me–to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We’re at our best when we’re at our personal worst. We’re strongest when our own strength falls impotent and we wholly rely upon the strength of the Lord in us. His strength (power) is made perfect in our weakness. That is the power of humility. That is the power of love.
But, if love causes the power of God to be perfected in us, what happens when we fall short of that love? Well, one of two things: 1) The grace of God, not willing that the people being ministered to would go without their blessing from the Lord, will overlook the personal failing of the messenger and will anoint him/her anyway for their sakes, and/or 2) The messenger (preacher) will operate more out of his skills and talents than the true power of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, many Christians don’t know the difference because they haven’t spent enough time in the Spirit to know what the presence of God even looks like.
Consequently, we have a lot of people being propped up by the masses as men and women of God when, in fact, the love that is the fuel of true usefulness is either non-existent or overshadowed by ambition. This definitely manifests in people’s public disdain for homosexuality. Completely disregarding the principle espoused in 1Co. 5:9-13 (which tells us to let unbelievers live their lives free of our judgments or attempts to lord our beliefs over them), they use their Christianity as a justification for trying to shape the world after their own socio-religious worldview. This is really just a smokescreen for their true purpose—to create an enemy, an us-versus-them environment that will cause people to rally around them. In such cases, Christianity is just a means to an end, and the “enemies” they create are just collateral damage in their quest for support, power, and, of course, money (1Ti. 6:10).
We learn in the love chapter, however, that love doesn’t seek its own. It’s not selfish, always going after how it can benefit from a situation. When I consider today’s socio-political climate, with particular focus on those who use their faith as justification for opposing equal rights for homosexuals and same-sex couples, I can’t call it love. At best, it’s a sincere attempt to stop people from living in sin, despite the fact that Scripture expressly commands against such religious tyranny. At worst, it’s a conscious effort to maintain a sense of self-righteous superiority by always having an “other”—the bad guy… the scapegoat… someone you can blame for the bad… someone you can turn into a cause to rally against. It’s despicable!
It’s exactly why people like Pat Robertson make ridiculous claims every time a natural disaster or other catastrophe takes place. Gays caused 9/11. We weren’t flying the planes, but we’re the reason God allowed the fundamentalist Muslims’ plan to succeed. We caused hurricane Katrina, earthquakes in diverse places, and if I’m right, we’ll probably be the cause for WWIII. They definitely claim that the antichrist will be a homosexual, based only an exceedingly ridiculous interpretation of Dan. 11:37, which is only saying that the ambitions of the antichrist will prevent him from being interested in a romantic relationship. (Notice that the passage doesn’t say he’ll magnify men over women, but himself!)
Where’s the love in this type of fear-mongering? Where’s the love in being so dead-set against a group of people that you could bring yourself to twist Scripture in order to justify your malice? How could a pattern of demonizing people—not for any acts of cruelty they’ve committed against others, but for just being who they are—possibly be considered love? Yet, people guilty of these crimes against the gospel continue to marshal large amounts of support from blind sheep.
I call such acts crimes against the gospel because when it boils down to it, it’s the gospel that ultimately suffers. People, quite understandably, develop a perspective of Christianity as a religion full of self-righteous hypocrites. There would be no cause for such an accusation if we practiced love the Bible way; but unfortunately, we’ve given unbelievers more than enough cause to question the rightness of our faith. Some people will die having rejected the gospel, not because they didn’t want to believe, or hated Jesus Christ, but because of their ire for those who carry His name. How can we possibly, as a collective Christian body, repent of such an offense against the very purpose of Christ in coming to the world to seek and to save the lost?
Evangelicals and other traditionalists are very good at talking about how Jesus is the only way to redemption and eternal life. I, for one, believe this to be an essential, fundamental truth. Yet, unlike traditionalists, I actually behave like it’s the truth. I try to get people saved before I tell them how the Bible instructs them to live. Why? Because it’s not going to do them any good to get all of the do’s and don’ts correct is they still die and go to Hell because they didn’t get born again. As Jesus phrased it: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul? (Mark 8:36)
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”
Our faith in Christ is meaningless if we’re not expressing it through love. And if God Himself loved us so much that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (Jn. 3:16), how can we possibly call it love to use our faith in such a way that damages people’s chances of receiving that free, yet costly, gift?
What particularly bothers me is how people actually call their religious tyranny love. Really? Since when does love require something of someone else—something he’s not willing to give? All throughout Scripture, we read that love compels the person doing the loving into action, not the person being loved.
- For God so loved the world that He gave… (Jn. 3:16)
- God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ (as in, He) died for us. (Ro. 5:8)
- If you love me, keep my commandments. (Jn. 14:15) Notice that according to Jesus, what should compel them into action is their love toward Him, not His love toward them!
- By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son… (1Jn. 4:9)
Love always requires the one loving to take action, not the one being loved. Christians who claim to love others—especially those who so cavalierly claim to “love the homosexual”—shouldn’t be requiring anything from them if that’s true. What they should be doing is moving out of their own comfort zone to embrace and accept homosexuals just as they are, even if they still believe homosexuality is wrong. What they can’t celebrate, they should, at the very least, tolerate! Love demands no less.
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.
Notice what John says here. God’s love was demonstrated, not in that we did anything, but in that He sent His Son. He goes on to say that if God loved us in this way, we should love one another in precisely the same way—not in requiring anything of them (like gays being delivered from homosexuality, or not marrying someone they love, etc.), but in moving out of our own place and demonstrating our compassion and care.
“Well,” the traditionalist replies, “that’s an irresponsible form of love. How can I, as a parent, see my child engaging in dangerous behavior, claim to love him, but not try to stop him from heading down a path that will lead to destruction? How is that love?”
My reply is that first of all, gay people are not your children. We don’t need you parenting us. We don’t seek your agreement or approval to live the lives we choose to live (in choosing to live according to the sexual orientation that we did not choose).
Second, the Christian reality is that our existence in eternity is infinitely more important than this temporal life. Paul said that the sufferings of this life aren’t even worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us (Ro. 8:18). So, is compelling people to live according to a particular standard worth the price of their eternal life? Is it so important to prevent gay people from having rights that it’s worth providing a humongous stumbling block in the path of their receiving the gospel? I certainly wouldn’t convert to Islam is Muslims were forcing me to live according to their beliefs. And I certainly wouldn’t convert to Christianity is Christians were doing the same! Thank God I was already a Christian before Christians had their way!!!
“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this–not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.”
Instead of judging others, deeming their “lifestyles” unholy, we should look to our own selves, ensuring that we’re not making it difficult and less likely for them to be saved. This isn’t some liberal philosophy aimed at diminishing Scripture. It’s an explicit teaching of Scripture!
So, contrary to what Tina Turner, in her emotional hurt, concluded, love is not just a secondhand emotion. Indeed, it’s the core. It’s the central element of all that matters. As it relates to homosexuality, it’s got everything to do with it. Unfortunately, it’s the very task at which so many Christians have utterly failed. The question is: Do we (as a collective Christian body) care enough?