Thursday, July 01, 2004

Christian Love

I have recently been reading up on ethical theory from a Christian point of view in Beyond Bumper Sticker Ethics. One of the sections is on Situational Ethics, the brand of ethical theory pioneered by Joseph Fletcher. Beginning from a Christian point of view, his basic point is that love is the final guideline in determining what is morally right and wrong. In short, if something is done in the spirit of love, then it is ethically right. He goes so far as to say (and I can remember when I first read this section) that the Ten Commandments can be broken if they are broken in a loving manner or for a loving reason.

This has reminded me of what the notion of “love” has become in our culture at large. When it is said that we should love someone, what is typically intended is that we should unflinchingly accept that person’s behavior. We have all heard it said with reference to different “lifestyle choices” – “God made them that way and he loves them, so who are you to deny them their behavior?” The connection being that apparently the ultimate form of love, God the Creator’s love, allows them to behave in accordance with their nature. So anything less than total acceptance from a human is not love at all.

Pascal had this to say about these kinds of public invocations of “love”:

451. All men naturally hate one another. They employ lust as far as possible in the service of the public weal. But this is only a pretnece and a false image of love; for at bottom it is only hate.

In other words love is the political foil for lust (in any form) and hate. At bottom the agenda that would employ a false and shallow form of love is in fact an agenda which is aimed at fulfilling lust and hate.

And what a shallow form of love it is! I have said many times that a crucial component of love in a biblical sense is its unwillingness to do certain things. Love simply does not do some things! God is love and he hates sin. Who are we to be loving in a godly fashion and fail to call sin, sin? To paraphrase an old proverb-if everything is love, nothing is love.

As with so many other things, the Church must stand up for the truth about love. The greatest form of love we know, God the Creator’s love, loves people to death and eternally hates sin.

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