Love is Love, Except When It is Not

by Jason Alligood September 12, 2019

“Love is Love!” We hear this mantra bandied about as if it means anything without defining what love is. It is, perhaps not surprising, that those who have been reared in a culture where it is preferred that words not bedefined are so flippant with something so important as the word love. On the other hand, these are also quick to show offense when they are certain that another has crossed the line into what is not loving. This, of course, requires that one has a grasp of love’s definition. Therefore, the word must have some objective meaning, and cannot simply be defined by itself. “Love is love,” epitomizes the postmodern definitional conundrum in which we find ourselves.

Love that is true love is wrapped in objective truth. As Christians we are familiar with the phrase “God is love.” In fact, some non-Christians are familiar with this phrase and use it to castigate Christians who they consider unloving (again, we come to objectivity). I wonder how many Christians and non-Christians know the context of this phrase? Christians who grew up in the church are likely to know that this comes from 1 John 4:8. However, to rip 1 John 4:8 from the context of 1 John is a dangerous thing.

John does not start by stating that God is love. The earliest “God is” statement in 1 John is “God is light,” followed by “and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). This statement about light and darkness demands an objective understanding of right and wrong. Here’s the summary:God is light, the very essence of goodness and righteousness, and we are not. This objective truth concerning God drives our understanding of not only what is good, but what is meant when John later says, “God is love.” God being light gives definition to God also being love. He is both light and love in and of himself, inseparably.

This logically leads to the conclusion not only that love must be defined objectively, but that when we genuinely love, we must press toward the light of who God is. God has shown his love in the darkness by sending the light of his Son into the world to live a perfect life, die an underserving death in the place of sinners, and be raised three days later as a witness to his deity and his conquering over sin and death. So, we must lovingly tell people that they are sinners. This is the most loving thing we as Christians can do.

Even the secular world understands that love has boundaries, but the subjectivity in which they have placed their faith has made it so that anyone can define love as they like and the whole thing has become a subjective mess. Since love is objectively defined by the God who is also light, we must, in loving others, express a truthful understanding of sin. We must therefore, in loving others, express a truthful understanding of human sexuality. We must therefore, in loving others, express a truthful understanding of the sanctity of human life, from the womb to the tomb. We must therefore, in love and in the scope of eternity, not elevate one sin as more egregious than another when condemnation according to God’s perfection is in view. We must therefore, in love, tell others of the objective love of God in Christ, which is the only answer to the sinfulness of falling short of the objective truth of God’s light. Love is love, except when it is not. We must declare with the Scriptures that God is both light and love.