Monday, March 25, 2013

Human love, God's love and marriage

Recently reading an article on More Light Presbyterians’ site I wanted to sit down with the author put my arm around her shoulder and tell her that she is loved but confused. She, like so many in this generation, is deeply confused about Christian identity and the love of God. Annanda Barclay suggests that denying any kind of love between people is denying God’s love. In her article, “Sack Cloth & Ashes” Barclay writes:

In church it is frequently heard, “We need love.” It is a trite important phrase, but I also wonder about those who already have it. For some of us who have love, how many of us can practice it without condemnation? The LGBTQ community is denied participation and celebration in our church regarding love. Christ’s resurrection also celebrates what is so often referred to as “their concept of love.” Whenever I hear such rhetoric my heart breaks a little. Love is simply love. God’s love manifested between two people how ever they self-identify is universal. By condemning same gendered couples to marry, does the church not also realize that it has condemned love?

While there are several misunderstandings in this statement, probably the biggest misunderstanding concerns Christ’s resurrection and “their concept of love.” But first, the church, bowing to the authority of scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, not only sees same gender sex as sin, it also holds that sex outside of marriage, that is, fornication and adultery, are sin.

But even in a marriage, deemed legal by a state, love is not necessarily right or good, not even when the love is between a man and a woman. Think back to the Herod who married Herodias, his brother’s wife. Both people were extremely evil by all biblical and historical accounts. Their love had no connection to God’s love. And what of Ahab and Jezebel’s marriage—they constantly fed on each other’s evil.

Love between a man and a woman is not God’s love. But love between a man and a woman may be a gift given by God. In that sense such love can grow and begin to resemble the love of God who not only gave his Son for humanity but also resurrected him that believers might have both forgiveness and eternal life. Eros may grow into agape. Married love when both persons are united in Christ will become ultimately self giving, kind and tender. But this begins in obedience to Christ and his word, not in disobedience.

The love of God that comes to us through and by way of Christ and his cross and resurrection has no need of marriage to be experienced. Every person can experience such love even in the loneliest, darkest most abandoned conditions and places. God’s love comes to us by way of faith, repentance and trust. It flourishes in obedience to the word of God:

By this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know him,’ and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps his word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in him; the one who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same manner as he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6)

Such love sustains the church as each member shares that love with another. After John explains that he is writing an old commandment “which is the word’ which they have heard, he writes:

On the other hand I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in darkness until now.
The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:8-11)

There is a wonderful metaphorical story told by Australian author Tim Winton. Cloud Street not only contains a pig who speaks in tongues and an aborigine who reminds the reader of Jesus as he offers bread and wine, but it also contains a house full of pained and hurting ghosts. A young couple, who move into the house, become the exorcists, with the birth of their baby the ghosts are gone.

This is the right slant on human love. Whether the author of the book meant it or not, the demons of our time are expelled by the blessings of the covenant of marriage, be the blessing a baby or the acknowledgement that this is God’s covenant relationship between a man and a woman, which moves and functions beyond the ruses of the world. Attempting to tap God’s love in any place outside his Son will end in meaningless gibberish. And in God’s Son, human love is born out of obedience to the word. Such love enters into the marriage that exists between a man and a woman as they walk hand in hand with their Lord.

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