Love as a commodity of sex or the self

Posted on November 14, 2012 by

There is increasing concern in the church  about the feminization of Christianity. At least there is much concern expressed in online discussions, and rightly so. Men are abandoning the faith in part because we have followed the culture away from a focus on principles and theological truth to a faith based on moving ethical targets and feelings. This can appeal to women in a way that men often find unsatisfying and lacking. A significant number of women also recognize that this new twisting of the Faith into something that appeals to our lower nature is not to be embraced. Those of us with a hunger for truth will always find counterfeit truths lacking no matter who we are.

As culture within and without the church has moved away from clear boundaries in all spheres of life, a perverse interpretation of what it means to love has also infected us, hindering us from loving God the way the Bible commands, from loving our families in a godly way, and from ministering to and loving each other the way Christ commanded and modeled when he walked among men.

A commenter on my personal blog once denounced the idea that he, as a man, should love Jesus because to do so hinted of homosexuality. Once the shock wore off, I attempted to respond rationally and with Scripture evidence that there is really no other way for any of us male or female, to inherit eternal life if we don’t love the Savior who gave His life to pay for our sins. Instead of the support I expected to receive,  more than a few women as well as men joined into concur with the original commenter.

The exchange remained with me for weeks. Upon deep reflection and prayer, it occurred to me that American Christians in 2012 are as infected with the pornification of love as those outside the Faith. We have bought into the idea that all relationships between adults not blood relations are sexual in nature. We are all either potential sex partners or sexual competitors. It’s a narrow and perverse view of love to be sure, but there is no other plausible explanation for the vehement objection to a bedrock truth of the Christian faith that has been universally accepted by all believers since the church began, words uttered by Christ Himself:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

Where to Begin?

While it’s tempting to jump on my anti-feminist soapbox here, the beginning of this selfish and perverse take on love really has been with us since well, the beginning. Since Eve decided that God didn’t love her enough to share everything with her. Since Adam decided that his love for Eve was great enough to warrant disobeying God. This dilemma  is nothing new.

The redeeming element was God’s grace and His firm hand. He taught His people with amazing specificity what was acceptable and what wasn’t. The consequences for unacceptable acts were swift and severe. As harsh that seems to us now, life then was harsh and clear boundaries, rewards, and consequences were the most loving thing God did for humanity in the generations after the fall.

There have always been and will always be crossing of boundaries. This is nothing new as its a part of our sinful humanity. Yet, because of understanding among the children of the Exodus about what was acceptable and what wasn’t, David’s loving friendship with Jonathan is not thought to have been sexual in nature, despite Scripture’s description of the deep love they had for one another. The same can be said of Ruth and Naomi. These were relationships built on the foundation of a shared faith, not sexual attraction. Somehow the idea of a person openly declaring love for another person of like gender is suspect, unless that person is related by blood. This is especially true for men.

The New Testament

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, he quickly set about turning the established religious order on its head. Not by dismantling the law as the people knew it, but by showing them what it looks like to embrace the spirit of the law as well as the letter. He demonstrated love in action.

Later, Paul’s epistles outline the practical side of loving one another: in the church, in the home, in society. Reading carefully, we see that there is little there about feelings. It’s all about our responsibility, and no where does he give credence to our emotions. Loving God was about obedience to His word. Loving people was about restraining my own selfish desires in order to do what’s best for them and what pleases God.

Somewhere along the way,  we began to embrace a definition of love that is warm and fuzzy, what makes us feel good. Sex, power, pride, personal affirmation, empathy. This new definition infiltrated the church as well, and we have a picture of love that is far removed from anything to be found in Scripture.

The result is that the modern definition of love can be wrapped up in two questions: Am I turned on? and Do I feel good in this marriage/friendship/church/family?

The fallout of such a narrow and selfish view of love is evident to all who dare to look. As believers, we must get back to love as the Bible defines it.