Since we're talking about this sort of thing, I think it bears mentioning that there seems to be a culture war going on right now over what, exactly, is "love." It's more than just sexual orientation; this word is being thrown around in all sorts of contexts where what it means is something radically different than what Jesus meant by it.
When the Supreme Court of the United States granted legal rights to homosexual marriage, a loud roar erupted and declared, "Love wins!" When a homosexual actor or actress "comes out" at some major event, there's that scream again - "Love wins!" But it's more than just that. Talk to attendees at a protest - or a counter-protest - and they'll tell you, "We're here for love. Love wins." After a terrorist attack, thousands rally in the name of "love." After a young woman was run over by a car at a counter-protest this past weekend, one of her friends went on television and declared, "She was here for love."
In case you're getting buried in all of this love language, let's break it down. To the contemporary secular culture, "love" seems to have one of three meanings. First, it means simple affection - the kind of warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we're "falling in love." Second, it seems to be an expression of mutual toleration. If we are not actively engaged against each other, then this is love. It means we accept what the other is doing and simply let it be. You can't fight "love." And who would want to? Third, it seems to have become merely a state of being. A state of existing. Existential love, if there even is such a thing. When the shouts of "Love wins" ring out, what is actually being said is that there is nothing more to fight; all creation comes to rest in a state of love...whatever that is.
And at the heart of all of this, I think, is a direct assault on the Christian faith, which has proclaimed a powerful message about Love since it died on the Cross for us. Now, the world, weary of what we have to say about it, is attempting not only to hijack, but to redefine, what love is.
Love is...it's more than simple affection, although there's maybe a place for that. It's not mere toleration, and it's certainly not a state of being. God says He is love, and that means there's something dynamic about it.
In the Christian vernacular, love has always been active. It's either a verb or it's an active noun, a living thing. Never is it something that just exists, as though you could set it on a shelf or go to the grocery and pick up a quart of love. It's never passive the way the world wants to make love passive. It's something that pulses with the heartbeat of God, with the holy breath of Creation itself. Love is always doing, always moving, always growing, always engaged.
Christian love is a radical kind of love that the world just can't copy.
The thing I guess that strikes me about this is how easily the world can profess love without actually loving anyone. How easy it is to stand up and shout "love wins" at a brother or sister with whom you profoundly disagree and therefore, hate. How the world's idea of love just gets thrown in the face of those it finds most unlovable. It has become a message of exclusion, extremely counter to the Christian inclusiveness of Love Himself. The world shouts "love wins" and what it means is that if you don't believe exactly as the world believes, if you don't affirm what the world affirms, if you don't buy into the propaganda about love, you lose. As though it's just a game.
Then again, there were soldiers rolling dice at Golgotha. So what do I know?
It's just troubling. And not because I don't believe in social justice or human equality or rights or whatever it is that has co-opted love this week. It's troubling because I believe in Love and what I see on display in this world is not love, no matter how loudly they shout it. Jesus said whoever's not against us is for us, but we have to be careful. Because there are a whole lot of people using holy-sounding words, but there's nothing holy about it.
I don't know how we combat it. I really don't. I don't know what we can say or what we can do or what needs to break for the world to give up its siege. I just don't know.
What I do know is that it's more important now than ever before that we not lose sight of Love in all of this. That we remember what Love is, that it is living and active, so much more than the world wants to make of it. That we live out that Love to the best of our ability, even when it means we're going to be standing there with the world shouting in our face, "Love wins!"
It does win. Love has already won.
It does win. Love has already won.
And I think maybe the best thing I can do right now is to stand here and take it and turn the other cheek, and when the world shouts "love!," whisper back, "This. is. Love. Let me show you." Maybe that's all I can do.