In the previous post, I addressed the common claim that homosexual marriage has no negative effect upon marriage and family by arguing that there is significant legal harm (in terms of the encroachment and violating of religious liberties) and societal harm (in terms of the scientific research regarding the emotional, psychological, and development health of children raised in same-sex households) associated with the widescale acceptance and promotion of homosexual marriage. Today, I want to address the third obvious objection when Christians talk about this topic: the lack of love for LGBT individuals by Christians. This argument can be paraphrased as follows:
My passionate love for all people is what makes me choose equality over second tier citizenship for people whose “sin” is consensual, free will love. I could never in good faith deny happiness to others because they chose to commit to someone of the same sex. Denying the happiness of two people in love is simply another form of homophobic bigotry.
Based on my own discussions of this topic, this is the most repeated objection lodged at conservative evangelicals. Consequently, I think it’s quite important to discuss this topic thoroughly.
This objection is very important to address because it deals with a very important presupposition that Christians should be honest and upfront about when discussing these matters. We must admit that the biblical definition of love is vastly different than the definition of love expressed in our culture. As Christians, we develop our understanding of love based upon God’s revelation of His love as revealed in the Scripture. We acknowledge that the love of God as displayed in Scripture is complex and multifaceted, which leads informed Christians to have a multi-faceted definition of love.
This is quite different than how the concept of love is developed within our culture. Most Americans define love incorrectly because they have an incorrect view of the love of God. Virtually all Americans who believe in God believe that God is love; however, this widespread belief in the love of God is usually interpreted apart from biblical revelation. As a result, when informed Biblical Christians talk about the love of God, we usually mean something quite different from what is meant in the surrounding culture. Today, the love of God, as expressed by the culture around us, has more in common with wishful optimism than anything that is truly substantive. As a result, the Christian definition of the love of God becomes very difficult to discuss within the culture around us because the entire framework and worldview in which it is set in Scripture has been replaced in the general culture around us.
Moreover, we live in a culture in which many other complementary truths about God are widely disbelieved. Today, most people seem to have little difficulty believing in the love of God; they have far more difficulty believing in the justice of God and the wrath of God. As a result, when the concept of God’s love is discussed in our culture, it is abstracted from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the providence of God. This means that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything that our surrounding culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God (and, by extension, our culture’s understanding of love) has been sanitized, democratized, and sentimentalized. Our culture’s view of love is best expressed by the Ad Council’s video Love Knows No Labels.
With this being said, let’s look at two salient features of Christian love from the Scriptures in relation to this claim.
Love, Truth, and Wrath
In the most famous chapter on the description of Christian love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13), Paul states that love “does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices with the truth”. Hence, when Christians exhibit love, it is not merely impersonal assent to the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Scriptures; rather, Christian love is a passionate, emotional response to the truth of the Word. This is reflected numerous times throughout the Scriptures as a deep, passionate love for the law of God (cf. Psalm 119). Christian love rejoices in the same truth that Scripture proclaims regarding the glory of marriage in Matthew 19:4-6 and Ephesians 5:22-33.
Conversely, Christian love is not merely an impersonal disapproval and/or tolerance to the things contrary truth; rather, it is a passionate, emotional hatred of sin. Jesus was never impersonal and indifferent when confronting sin; rather, He expressed outrage at sin repeatedly in his ministry. When Jesus saw men defiling the temple of God, He drove them out with a whip (cf. John 2:14-18). When Jesus saw the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, he called them a “brood of vipers” (cf. Matthew 23). When Jesus saw the stubbornness of the Galilean cities to His ministry, He expressed outrage in His indictment (cf. Luke 10:13-15; Matthew 11:21-24). This attitude towards sin is echoed by Paul’s condemnation of the incestuous man in Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 5).
For the Christian, it is not truly loving to have an indifferent attitude towards sin. This is one important difference between biblical love and the sentimental, “don’t judge me” love expressed by our culture. Jesus was one who “loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (cf. Hebrews 1:9). However, this moral outrage is not an implacable, blind rage. It is deeply emotional, but it’s an entirely reasonable, self-controlled, and willed response to offense against His holiness. There are some today who say that we should not be outraged by the SCOTUS decision on homosexual marriage and the growing acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism. I would disagree with this sentiment for the reasons stated above – outrage against gross immorality is not antithetical to love, but it is radically consistent with God’s love as revealed in the Scripture. Mere “niceness” is not compatible with this type of Christian love. My disposition is more in line with Robert Gagnon:
For decades the church has been overly passive about the liberties of their children being taken away and naive about the enormously negative impact of the imposition of acceptance of homosexual relations. Given the outrage expressed by Jesus, Paul, and every prophet, to claim that outrage against injustice is antithetical to trusting in God’s promises is absolutely false and just plain silly. Everybody understands the concept when one is talking about outrage against economic exploitation and racism and abuse of women.
Friends, if this were the Supreme Court attempting to restore the Dred Scott ruling, would it be unchristian to express “outrage”? This is not a tea party… The action of the five lawless Justices will have enormous negative repercussions for the church corporately and Christians individually. And outrage at egregious immorality is not antithetical to love. This action by the Lawless 5 will harm many, especially those who experience same-sex attractions. We should have a godly outrage toward that.
Love, Compassion, and the Gospel
The ultimate display of love is described in 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. God would have been perfectly just to leave all of us in our state of sin and misery, but instead He provided a Mediator for us. Because of God’s proactive love towards us, Christian love is proactive towards the world. For the Apostle Paul, the love of Christ compels him to be an ambassador of Christ, imploring sinners to be reconciled to God (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21). We see this proactivity in the life of Jesus. It was Jesus who sought the woman at the well, confronting her concerning her sin and offering her living water (cf. John 4:7-29). It was Jesus who sought out and ate with tax collectors and notorious sinners, calling them “sick” and offering Himself as a physician (cf. Luke 5:29-32).
The love that God has displayed toward us compels us to address these issues. If Jesus was proactive towards us in our redemption, then we must be proactive in confronting people with the gospel. Contrary to the image that is put forth by LGBT activists, we know that many LGBT individuals live miserable lives. Many LGBT individuals fit the description of the man in Good Samaritan parable: stripped, beaten down, and half-dead on the side of the road (cf. Luke 10:30-31). To simply leave individuals in that state by soothing them with soft words (“God loves you for being you” or “Love yourself”) is profoundly unloving. To stand by passively and to simply tolerate these matters is just as unloving as passing over to the other side of the road (cf. Luke 10:31-32). Christian love doesn’t mean that we look at sinners with cold indifference because they are getting what they deserve; Christian love means that we show compassion by proactively approaching sinners, confronting them with the gospel, sacrificing for them as they struggle through sin, encouraging them with the Word, and walking with them as they become mature in Christ.
For a more exhaustive discussion on the doctrine of the love of God, see D. A. Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.
For a more exhaustive discussion on Christian love, see Jonathan Edwards’ classic article: Charity and Its Fruits.