What Is Love?

Our culture is desperately attempting to redefine love.  For many, love includes acceptance, and acceptance demands approval.  In other words, if you love me, you will accept me and approve of all my choices.  If you disapprove of my choices, you do not accept me; therefore, you do not love me.  Such a redefinition of love ultimately leads to a victim mentality that sees anyone who disapproves of anything you do as bigoted and hateful.

Addressing the issue of loving others, the apostle John, otherwise known as the apostle of love, wrote, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  But whoever 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.” (I John 2:10-11).  According to John, everyone who is in Christ is called upon to love people.  John pointed out that this commandment is not new—meaning that God communicated his desire for his people to love their neighbors in times past.

Additionally, the commandment to love others was made new as Jesus lived it out during his life and ministry.  This means that God commanded his people to love, then he showed them how to love in Christ, and ultimately, he empowered them to love through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Therefore, every believer is called to love everyone, with no exceptions.

However, this leads us to an important question, does the command to love require believers to accept people and approve of their actions?  Yes and no.  Yes, we accept people because every person, regardless of who they are or what they do, is made in the image of God and is worthy of dignity and respect.  On the other hand, God’s Word never commands us to approve of sinful attitudes or behaviors.  For example, when my children disobeyed me, I continued to love them, and I always accepted them as my children even though their disobedience disappointed me. But I did not approve of or affirm their behavior.  In fact, I often disciplined them to understand that disobedience carried a cost, and I corrected them, so they knew what was right and good.

Here is the lesson, real love does not require approval—regardless of what culture tells us.  We are called to love, but we are not compelled to align with or approve of sinful behavior.  Moreover, love does not exist independent of truth.  Culture sees love and truth as competing vices, but Scripture tells us that love and truth are complementary virtues.  When you love someone, you will be truthful with them, regardless of how the truth makes them feel.  In contrast, if you refuse to speak the truth to someone, can it be said that you genuinely love them?

The Scripture is clear, believers are to love others, but we cannot approve of sin.  Furthermore, if we love others, we will confront them in kindness with the truth.  By this, we will demonstrate that we abide in the light.