What do 80s music, the LGBTQ alphabet mafia, and the Bible share in common? All three cite the use of a very powerful word — love.
The hits from the 80s use the word as a kind of hybrid between lust and teeny-bopper infatuation. The LGBTQ community uses the word in a similar way, only with an extra dose of perversion. And the Bible…well, it’s the only resource that actually contains the true definition of love.
But how can these secular formations use the word so differently than the way the Bible defines the word love? And why do so many professing Christians get sucked into a secular understanding of the word?
First, we must understand what love truly is. Liberty University’s founder and pastor Jerry Falwell Sr. defined love as “commitment” and “a relationship that never gives up.” Falwell’s definition of love aligns with 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV, which may be the clearest, most concise reference for understanding what love is:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Biblical love is a commitment — a constant striving for patience and kindness, rejoicing in truth, enduring, hoping, and believing all things for eternity. In addition to eternal commitment, biblical love is sacrificial. In John 15:13, we see this clearly in Jesus’ statement that “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
In fact, in order to love the way 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us to, we must love sacrificially. Love requires us to willingly — not begrudgingly — die for another person. This love gladly steps in front of a bullet for their child and makes sacrifices of their time, resources, energy, and physical well-being so that those around them can live life abundantly. As Dr. Falwell correctly points out, love never leaves when times are hard. Love sacrifices in difficulty for the benefit of another person.
Love is not a feeling. It’s a deliberate action, a verb rather than a noun or adjective, and so we see commandments to love scattered throughout the Bible. You would be hard pressed to open a book in the New Testament and find a verse that doesn’t encourage Christians to love. At face value, one could read the aforementioned passages and conclude that 80s music lovers and LGBT adherents do, in fact, understand biblical love. The homosexual, for example, could make that assertion, claiming that they would die for their significant other, practice patience and kindness, and endure hardship until the end.
But here’s the real distinction between the Christian and the world: The Christian rightly understands biblical love because he knows the Author of love.
Christ Himself is the embodiment of love, and in fact, He is the only One who embodies 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and John 15:13. He is love made manifest. 1 John 4:8 states that “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” When you understand the fact that Christ IS love, you must recognize that every single interaction by Christ we have recorded in the Scriptures is a perfect example of love.
When Christ called the Pharisees white-washed tombs, He was loving. When He flipped tables in the temple, He was loving. When He told the adulterous woman to go and sin no more, Christ was loving. And, in fact, Christ was no less loving in these situations than He was when He was washing the disciples’ feet or healing the leper. Most apparent of all His demonstrations of love was His death on the cross where He literally “laid His life down for His friends,” bearing the punishment for the sins of not just His friends and supporters but the sins of the whole world, though He Himself was innocent of any sin.
Christ’s love — biblical love — means to sacrifice, to rebuke, to correct, to encourage, to edify, to serve, to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, and to hate what God hates.
Biblical love, the love of Christ, is a love like a shepherd. A shepherd will protect his beloved sheep in the pasture, but he will risk his life to viciously threaten or even kill anything that causes harm to his sheep. The shepherd doesn’t welcome wolves into his flock out of a desire to love and accept the wolves; he doesn’t feed the sheep rotten food and tell them to “chew the meat and spit the bones”; and he doesn’t teach the sheep to behave like goats in order to attract more sheep into his fold. A shepherd who loves his sheep protects them at all costs, serves them, cares for them, guides them, and teaches them to obey His commands.
Most of the culture’s love, on the other hand, is better defined as lust. Virtually every show on every television or cable channel today contains a sex scene, a perverse sexual joke, a glorification of fornication, or all of the above. It’s difficult to even watch commercials without seeing a same-sex couple on the screen. Exhortations to “love yourself” is the reigning philosophy by female authors, podcast hosts, and speakers. “Love and acceptance” is the professed mantra by the most hateful, tyrannical, and depraved people in society. Cultural love is so flimsy and fleeting that divorce lawyers are never out of a job.
At its heart, the world’s definition of love is anti-Christ and anti-biblical. But we know this already. Satan makes a counterfeit of everything God creates. Satan’s version of “love” embraced by the world is a fleshly, self-serving, false light and it must be rejected by Christians. Our understanding of love should never be conflated with the world’s definition of love, and, in fact, we should be equipped and ready to exude biblical love at every opportunity. If darkness has nothing to do with light, then the world’s love has nothing to do with true love — the biblical love perfectly exemplified by Christ.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and politics? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page, where we’ve published several long-form pieces to help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.