Recent times has seen our nation divided by the issue of same-sex marriage (SSM). Proponents for SSM have started to use the slogan "love is love" to capture what it is they are fighting for. Even as a person who affirms the traditional definition of marriage, I can see how powerful this catchphrase is, and how it has managed to rally many people behind it. And a part of it is because I agree with the sentiment that "love IS love"! What I don't agree with is how our culture has taken the word "love" and uses it to describe many different things.
In our English language we use "love" in so many ways. I LOVE my wife, but I also love chips. Especially chips in gravy. I also love cats. All those are 100% true statements, but they have a distinctly different quality about them. The context of its use helps us to understand the different quality between the uses of the word "love". But have we stopped to consider what the word "love" means when it is used in relationships? When SSM proponents use the phrase "love is love", what are they defining as "love"? This is fundamentally important in understanding how relationships should be legislated in our nation.
I believe that the SSM's use of the phrase "love is love" is flawed. We see images popping up such as the one below:
This is an emotive image, and it stirs up feelings of frustration and anger that a heterosexual couple are allowed to "love" one another, but a homosexual couple is not. However, what has this kind of "love" got to do with marriage? I would think that this "love" can be defined as a deep attraction to another person, a deep desire for another person, and to be in a committed relationship with each other. I can honestly say that I have experienced those emotions, and made a commitment to spend the rest of my life with one woman.
To boil marriage down to those terms alone would be dangerous though. In fact "attraction", "desire", and "commitment" are currently regulated by legislation. For example, one cannot marry a person under the age of 16 under any circumstances. Simply being in love (being deeply attracted, deeply desiring and promising commitment) with a person under 16 is not enough to pass the marriage test. Please do not see this as my attempt to demonize SSM by equating it with pedophilia. I am simply pointing out that in Australia we do not put boundaries around relationships through the lens of attraction, desire and commitment alone. Another example is that of polygamy. Again attraction, desire and commitment are not the only boundaries regarding relationships.
By boiling the boundaries of marriage down to attraction, desire and commitment, we run the risk of changing other boundaries down the track. It is my belief that this is already happening in the world. Google "love is love" and other images such as the one below pops up. There were other more graphic images that I could have chosen but did not, putting forward alternative relationships that are not currently allowed by law.
Here is what I am trying to say: "love is love". Love is not just attraction, desire, or even simple commitment. It HAS to go deeper for it to be the powerful force it is in society. To be perfectly honest, I don't even know if I could find the words to describe "love". As a Christian, I believe that we do not understand, and probably cannot understand the fullness of love. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 states:
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
"Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." Our Creator knows us fully, loves us fully, even if I do not know it. And because I believe God loves us with a true love, I understand that the Bible gives us the best guidelines for our lives, including our relationships. That is why as Christians we have to try to understand and uphold the principles in the Bible, including the boundaries it puts around marriage.
I understand that not every person reading this is a Christian, and you might think that believing in the Bible is childish and irrelevant. My question that I would like to put forward is how would you define love? And how would you define it in a way that is not just for the individual relationships but for the future generations to come? I find the guidelines of "attraction", "desire" and "commitment" not quite enough.
Christian, if I can have a moment to address you. When we understand that the world defines "love" largely with attraction and desire, it gives us a hint to how we can have a conversation around this. To discount a person's involuntary attractions and feelings is to put them down as a person, a human being. We need to do better than to demonize people and their feelings, at the same time find a way to continue to teach and uphold the standards set for us in the Bible. We have to demonstrate God's love, a love that we struggle to define, and often struggle to understand. But one thing I do know: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor 13:7).
Christian, we also have to note that simply because a person is in a heterosexual relationship, it doesn't necessarily give them the final component to "love". I believe that the assault on love isn't simply from the current debate around SSM. Rather in 1975 no-fault divorce became law, fundamentally changing the way we think about love. Suddenly, if you fell "out of love" you could get a divorce. We have to have a good hard look at what we know "love" to be.
Let's talk with one another, understand each other as best as we can. Simply throwing around slogans and catchphrases that are incendiary is not helpful (this goes for both sides). I believe that the Christian church continues to have something to offer a nation that was built on Christian principles and ethics.