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The Objective Nature of Love

Virtually everyone has heard comments in our current cultural climate such as, Who are you to deny two (or more) people loving each other?” “Love has no boundaries,”  “Jesus preached love, and you orthodox Christians are just a bunch of haters,” “I follow Jesus, not Paul,” “We should be supporting commitment, regardless of arrangement”, “Love does not deny people rights” and so on and so forth.  Implicit in these remarks is the idea that love is an inherently experiential concept that is reliant on the parties involved, rather than an objective reality.  This is often combined with a sort of “Christianesque” language, as post-Christian westerners appropriate Christian terminology in order to further so-called “progress.”   Even some Christians are confused by this, because after all, it is certainly true that Christ preached love, and most people do not want to be seen as a “hater.”  So what is it exactly about this popular language about love that is dangerous for the culture?  Why is this sort of thinking and language foreign to the biblical and Christian worldview?

Love in the flesh.

Love in the flesh.

In classic orthodox Christianity, love is an objective reality, because God IS love (I John 4:8).  Put another way, because love is an inherent attribute of the Triune God’s nature, and because God is the ultimate source of all things “both visible and invisible,” the definition of love is contingent upon who God is, and how He has revealed Himself both generally in nature (natural law/revelation), and especially in the person of Jesus Christ, and His continuing actions of grace and forgiveness found in His Word and Sacraments in the church.   It then follows that certain behaviors and feelings that contradict God’s will and nature as He has revealed them, are simply NOT love.   These behaviors and feelings may be powerful, potent, and perhaps very real to the people involved, but they are a corruption or counterfeit.  Counterfeit money after all, is more than an idea, can feel quite real, and can fool all but the trained expert.

The greatest commandment for Christians in the words of Jesus is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:20).  The second greatest commandment follows from this, which is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  What is important here is that one cannot claim to follow the second commandment while not practicing the first.  If the greatest commandment is God-centered, all forms of love, including that between humans and in societies at large, must be God-focused in order to be true love.  Claiming that the love of neighbor (in the name of nebulous “rights”) allows one to justify the acceptance of immoral behavior, or to promote laws that violates God’s law is as contradictory as it gets.  True love of neighbor flows from a correct conception of God, and takes into account God’s full revelation, not just the parts that are socially convenient.

Destination...?

Destination…?

Imagine if you will, a man riding a horse at full gallop towards the edge of a cliff.  He is happy to be doing so, finds meaning in it, and believes one of his purposes in life is to gallop at full speed in that general direction.  He may pick up companions on the way, all of whom share in his goals and aspirations to gallop off of the cliff, and they all perhaps “love” each other.  With this scenario in mind, what is the Christian loving response?  The current culture would have us believe that we should congratulate him on his lifestyle, be affirming and accepting, perhaps come along side him for a time, and “love him on his journey.”  We might even have a special support group for others like him, and catering programs of outreach, since we should be about “love and acceptance” and warning of the danger is too “judgmental.”

 Instead of affirming or assisting in his ultimate demise, the Christian does not encourage the rider and his friends to gallop off of the cliff.  Instead, the Christian does everything in his power to warn the rider, and may use a variety of methods to demonstrate the danger, and the alternative route for a means of escape.  This is true love, both of God and of neighbor, and true hatred would be to become a party to destruction, or to turn a blind “live and let live” eye to it.   It may at times be a tough form of love, and it may at times be offensive, but it is love nonetheless.   One of Christ’s last commands after his Resurrection was to command his disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” baptizing in the Triune name of God (Matthew 28:18-20).  True love takes this command seriously, and true hatred would be to deny the gospel message in the name of what the current culture thinks is “love.”   The Christian walk is a walk of repentance centered on the cross, not of agenda-driven secular humanitarianism.  And regardless of what temporary societies do and teach, the true love that comes from God in the person and work of Christ is eternal and life-giving, not beholden to votes and litigation, and perilous to ignore.

Love IS and defined by God the Holy Trinity, not us.

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6 Comments

  1. laurenwhyte says:

    wow wow food for thought !

  2. Dominic says:

    Imagine if we were to write a doctrinal confessional statement about “Love”

    The false inference, that from the St John’s teaching that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), we may thus conclude that all forms of love has been sanctified and affirmed by God, is to be absolutely repudiated. For the love of money and of the world, far from being affirmed, is declared to be the root of all evil, (1 Tim 6:10), and the same St John condemns the love of the things of the world, warning that for those who do so, “the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15). The bold assertion that God may testify or witness to his divine love outside of the revelation to the same which has appeared in own Son Jesus Christ and of the External words of the Sacred Scriptures inspired by his own Spirit, or that there maybe valid forms of love external or even contrary to the love revealed in the Scriptures, is mere presumptuous fanaticism [schwärmerisch].

  3. Scholiast says:

    I agree with this and am interested in seeing how it relates to Crusading as an act of love — that is, not only showing THAT Crusaders saw themselves acting out of love but HOW that love manifested itself, HOW they saw Crusading as love.

    • This is an interesting line of reasoning. It will be clear that as an act of liberation and as an armed pilgrimage, there was a definite “brotherly love” aspect.” Of course we could also talk about the feudal love of one’s lord and kin as divinely given, at least in the medieval mindset…Jonathan Riley-Smith points out also that the main weakness in the Crusaders was how love of neighbor should work out. The Knights Hospitaller probably got the closet to the Christian ideal, while some of the Norman lords were a bit “worldly.”

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