Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Marriage: Love Wins

My wife and I celebrated our anniversary this past week. Eighteen years. Sometimes I look back and think, "We were just kids when we got married!" But it's been a good eighteen. And I'm so grateful that I have her in my life.

I love her, you see?

And she loves me.

And we're better together. But that doesn't mean we're perfect.

Love holds us together. And in those (very few) moments when we don't see eye-to-eye, when there is friction, when there is stress...we both know that we will get through it, that we'll be okay.

Because we love each other. And love wins.

I'm thinking a lot about that phrase--"love wins." I've seen it splashed all over social media in the past few days.

Mostly I've seen "love wins" posts from friends who have changed their profile pictures to rainbow-stripes. And their posts seem filled with true joy...but perhaps also a little triumphalism? Even a few posts that seem to feel like a little kid sticking out his tongue and singing "neener-neener-neener!"

On the other hand, I also see friends with no rainbows to be seen...and their posts lately seem filled with angst, sorrow, worry, anger, and woe. Perhaps a little bitterness? Maybe a little defensiveness? No rainbow-joy here. Certainly no "love wins."

For those of us who claim the name of Christ--whatever we may believe about homosexuality--I'm wondering how well we are exhibiting a "love wins" way of living? This is an honest question...and I'm asking it of myself at the moment as well.

You see, I believe the Bible teaches that homosexual practice is sinful. But there are an awful lot of other things the Bible also teaches about sin. And I've felt for some time now that contemporary Evangelical Christianity has singled out homosexuality as The Big Sin. And I wonder sometimes about why that is. I have a feeling that it might be out of a sense of "I'll call THAT sin, and speak out against it...because it isn't my sin...which would be a little too uncomfortable to address."

You know what I mean? What if we started calling out the sin of materialism with the same fervor? That would get a little uncomfortable, wouldn't it? Because then we might be speaking about our own sin. And maybe we would start to feel a little guilty about the way we spend our money, and our lack of generosity, and the way we think about people who have less than we do. And maybe we would have to start changing our own behavior...because it is out of line with what the Bible teaches about caring for the poor, and justice for the oppressed, and showing mercy to others, and...loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Because that's the real problem, isn't it?

We know (I know) that Jesus, when questioned about which of the 600-some laws passed down through Moses is the most important, gave this answer:
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' - Matthew 22:37-39
What is the identifier for someone who is serious about doing things God's way? Jesus himself says it: we will love!

If we're serious about following Jesus...love wins.

I'm picturing churches on Sunday morning singing:
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored;
And they'll know we are Christians by our backlash toward people we don't like, by our backlash toward people we don't like,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our backlash toward people we don't like. 
Okay, that was a little nasty of me, I admit it. (And perhaps not very loving.) But I wonder if this is how the church is perceived in our broader culture? Because this doesn't sound like Good News to me.

They will know we are Christians...by our love. That is Good News to the world!

In 1 John 4, the apostle gives this encouragement to the church:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

That is a hard teaching, isn't it? But there it is in black and white. Ouch.

So maybe we in the church need to start thinking about marriage-love. Maybe we won't all see eye-to-eye all the time. Maybe there will times of friction. Maybe there will be stress because we don't agree. But marriage love is the sort where we know we'll get through it. We know we'll be okay.

Maybe then we can start to understand what John is saying here: "There is no fear in love."

Love wins.


  1. Very nicely written, Dave. Cheers. Taz.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with passion, Dave. If it's OK with you, I'd like to share mine.

    First, I think it’s important to go back to Romans 1 and find out why homosexuality existed at that time. The people of God were said to have forgotten God and were doing whatever they wanted. Verse 21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…” Then, in verse 24, it says, “Therefore…” Therefore, God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts.” In verse 26, it explains that they “exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.”

    But later in this passage, Paul gives a list of many ways people gave themselves over to their sinful desires, listing such things as greed, envy, gossip, and slander. So, because we do not put God first and live as he wants, we are given over to all kinds of sin.

    The difference, in my mind, is that the sins listed in Romans 1:21-31 are always acknowledged as sin in Christian and non-Christian communities. No one would argue that being a gossip is not wrong, or slandering someone is not worthy of justice, or that greedy people are only doing what is natural to the way they were created. The homosexual community would like homosexuality to be different. They want the world to believe that homosexuality is not wrong, that it’s OK, that it’s natural to those who were created that way.

    How is it loving of Christians to say, “Go ahead and live in the disillusion of sin.” Why would I want anyone to continue to remain under the powerful delusion, believe a lie, and be condemned? (Please read 2 Thess. 2:11 – actually, all of that chapter is applicable).

    Instead, should Christians approach others by saying, “I am a sinner. I struggle every day against the evil desires of my flesh. I know you are a sinner also. But let’s call it what it is. Let’s struggle through this journey together, repenting when we choose our own desires above God’s. Whether you struggle with homosexuality or greed or slander, you can walk with me, challenge me, encourage me, hold me accountable – just as I will with you.”

    We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. If we say that homosexuality is not sin, we are in trouble – and so are they. Love wins when we challenge each other to follow after God’s heart, admit our sins to God and each other, and when receive forgiveness from God, rather than condemnation.

    But most important, we must get back to God and his word. We will be given over to all kinds false teachings and doing wrong if we don’t know God’s word inside and out, and if we choose not to follow HARD after him. God is so powerful, loving, majestic, forgiving, merciful, gracious, kind, slow to anger, and abounding in love. Why do we knuckleheads, myself included, choose anyone or anything over him?

    1. Hi Nicki,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I really appreciate hearing your perspective, and your thoughtfully-written, articulate post. We share much common ground, I think.

      My biggest concern--and why I wrote this post--is the nastiness I see from fellow believers on both sides of this issue. I think there are many Christians (with a wide variety of different beliefs on this topic) who are frankly not living out this call to love. Triumphalism is not loving. Bile-spewing is not loving.

      I believe we can love each other--despite our differences--whether we are feeling joy or sorrow. Loving each other doesn't even mean we have to agree with each other. (My friend Ron, who is an RCA pastor, recently authored a book called _Compassion Without Compromise_ along these lines. I confess I have yet to read it, but I'm looking forward to doing so.) Is it hard work to be church? Yep. It can be hard, even when we *do* agree. But I stand by what I said: berating each other isn't helping advance the Kingdom. We are called to love, even when it's hard.

      I LOVE your last point especially: all of us need to spend time in the Word, and each of us need to continually submit ourselves to Christ on a day-to-day basis.

      Thanks again for reading and responding!
      Peace to you,

    2. Hi Dave,

      I would agree with what you are saying here about love not being bile-spewing. I am totally on board with your point that we must love, and we must respond to this issue in love.

      But what does/should love look like in this case? What does it mean to love those who are trapped in thinking homosexuality is OK and acceptable? My fear is that Christians get a bad wrap about not being loving when we say homosexuality is wrong - and even a sin. Many from the homosexual community AND from Christian communities will say that "love" means accepting their viewpoint. Love means keeping our mouths shut about what is sin, or claiming that homosexuality is sin. But that's not love.

      So, while I fully agree with your blog on love, and with your views that Christians must love, I wanted to clarify what that love might look like.

      Now is not the time to hold hands and sing, "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love, " without us saying - here's how we're going to do that. Otherwise, the gay community can say that Christians are NOT being loving in how we have approached the subject of homosexuality all along - for hundreds and hundreds of years.

      I don't believe that the church has done a good job of defining love in this case either. In all honesty, I have searched for what love might look like since my brother told me he was gay, and subsequently died from AIDS, and I wasn't happy with what I found coming from our church leadership either.

      It wasn't until I had a long conversation with Pastor John Klompien that it became clear to me what love COULD look like between Christians and those engaging in homosexuality - or any sin. We have to be willing to call sin out, admit our own struggle with sin, and invite other sinners to stand up against sin together.

      So, I hope you don't think I was disagreeing with what you said - just clarifying. I have a huge amount of respect for Christians who are willing to take up this conversion on a public level - and who give a platform for those of us who want to join in. You did so in love, Dave. Thanks for that.

      Peace also to you!