“Love is love.”
The signs seem to be everywhere right now.
The message is simple enough…and hard to argue against.
Love is love.
How can you deny that?
But certainly some clarification is needed.
First of all, not all loves are the same.
The Greeks were wise enough to realize that not all loves are identical. They had four different words to clarify all the multi-faceted expressions of love.
Storge. Family love. The love of a mother to her child. This kind of love is natural, protective, nurturing. It is the “mama bear syndrome.” If you mess with a child, you can be pretty sure that a mom or dad will soon rise up to protect them…or at least they should…unless something strange has disrupted that natural love.
Phile. Friendship love. Mutually accepting. Mutually beneficial. One friend helping another. This is the love of common interests, common desires, common goals joining together to form a common life together. This kind of love can grow as deep as time and proximity allows. And, if the situation demands, one friend can sometimes give his life for another.
Agape. Sacrificial love. The love of the will. The love of commitment. The kind of love willing to persevere, endure, sacrifice for the benefit of the other…even when the other doesn’t deserve it. The highest form of love. It can even rise to the level of loving an enemy.
Eros. Sensual love. Sexual. Romantic. Erotic. Physical love. The surge of emotion and desire. A fire that is often difficult to control or extinguish. The attraction of the eyes. The arousal of physical touch. The hunger for sexual pleasure.
The English word for “love” lumps all of this together…and then some.
I love my child. I love my football team. I love my wife. I love chocolate. I love sex. I love a good book. I love my dog. I love my country. I love country music. I love God.
How confusing is that?
So “love is love” certainly needs to be qualified.
In our current culture, “love is love” generally means that the love between a man and a woman is no different than the love of a man and another man or a woman and another woman…or perhaps a host of other arrangements.
After all, “love is love.”
And if that was all there was to it, then I would agree.
Biblically, we are called to love all people.
The Great Commandment, the foundational commandment, the most important commandment, the one that summarizes all the other commandments in the Bible, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.
And Jesus defined our neighbor as whomever we happen to meet in any given day, whatever their need or situation or religion or political persuasion may be.
This is agape love.
And it has no limits.
The depth of love between a man and another man, or a woman and another woman, can be as deep as a man and a woman.
In the Old Testament, Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul, desiring the best for him with the same intensity as he desired the best for himself (1 Samuel 18:1). Their lives were knit together. No sacrifice for each other was considered too great.
David described their love for each other as surpassing the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26).
And here is where the real issue starts to emerge.
Some in our culture would immediately take this to be sexual in nature. For their love to be this deep, then it had to be sensual. Their phile love for each other (their strong friendship)… and their agape love for each other (their willingness to sacrifice for each other)… had to include eros love (some kind of sexual desire).
This is where I would disagree.
Does “love is love” have to include sexual desire?
Can love be intensely strong without being sexual?
Can love meet the deepest needs of the heart and not have a sensual side?
In other words, the real issue is not whether “love is love” but whether “love to be love must include eros love.” Must love be sexualized?
Thus, the real issue is not love but sex.
What is the nature of sex? And for that matter, what is the nature of marriage?
What is their design? What is their purpose? Do they even have a design and a purpose?
No one is arguing that love is not love.
Love is love.
Truth is truth.
God is God.
The debate and disagreement is not over love but over sex.
Obviously each person has their opinion…and their own individual background.
But I believe that there is a divine design for sex and for marriage.
God designed one man and one woman to enjoy sexual intimacy within the protection and commitment of lifelong marriage.
This was His design.
And our biological design confirms it.
Form does follow function.
And biologically one man and one woman fit together and can create the miracle of life together.
It is amazing…and awe-inspiring when you stop and think about it.
And while you are stopping and thinking about it, sex touches us at such a deep level that it needs the highest commitment and the strongest protection of agape love.
The deepest wounds often come from the abuse, misuse, betrayal, and exploitation of sex for one’s own selfish purposes.
Almost everyone will agree with this…even if they disagree on everything else.
In the midst of the controversies of His day, Jesus called people back to God’s original design for sex and marriage.
And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Male and female.
For a lifetime.
This is the beauty of God’s design.
Sin has clouded the picture.
Torn the canvas.
Stained the frame.
Now we are all spiritually broken, sexually dysfunctional.
There is no room for pride.
There is plenty of room for compassion.
But the divine design still remains.
Calling us to purer passions.
Comforting us in our failures.
Correcting us in our lusts.
Connecting us to a higher love.
The true longing of our hearts.
Sex, at its best, is only a picture.
A sign pointing to something more.
An echo of creation.
A gift of the divine.
And in the light of this vision…
“Love is love” says nothing.
And “God is love” says it all.