Our culture is all about “love." We place so much hope in it, yet our cultural understanding and definition of “love” is more floaty than it is concrete. As Pastor Joel pointed out a few weeks ago our culture generally talks about love as one of two things: romantic love or a love which is based on unconditional acceptance of everything and everything (except Christians). It is in these two definitions of love that our culture places its hope for the future. We are told, “Love is the answer to the world’s problem.” But there is no hope to be found in the secular understanding of love. Let me give a few examples of how this is playing out in our culture today.
Romantic love is viewed as that which can change people by bringing about permanent positive change. The television show, Once Upon a Time, has consistently put forward “true love’s kiss” as that which overcomes the problems of this world. This past week this “true love’s kiss” was between two women. Nevermind such an act is immoral and as such cannot be loving.
Morality, right and wrong, has nothing to do with romantic love in our culture. If you “love” someone then that makes it moral! “Love” as our culture conceives it is always morally right. This perversion of romantic love revolves around our own ever-changing feelings and emotions. Such a foundation is far from stable. How can that which changes from day-to-day be the basis for “true love”? It cannot, because we are often tossed to and fro by our own emotions and circumstances. One day I may “love” my wife, and the next day she does not give that feeling anymore and I fall in “love” with someone else. There is no hope in such an understanding of love as it is all about my feelings, emotions, desires, and lusts.
This is a dangerous lie. Romantic love is not ultimate and it will not cause someone to change. We see this evidence every day as marriages fall apart because a spouse believed that their “true love” would bring life-altering change to their spouse. This is a thoroughly destructive lie. We cannot make people change. Romantic love cannot make people change. Only God can change people (yes he often uses a Christian marriage to mature and change his people, but this requires a relationship with God).
Christian women in particular need to hear this, “You cannot change your man. Only God can. You can love him and be an example of godliness, but only God can change him.” Single women (and men) need to hear this, “Do not go into marriage expecting it change your soon-to-be spouse. Such an idea is a recipe for disaster.” There is no hope for this world to be found in the secular idea of romantic love because it is actually more of a self-centered lust than it is true love.
The second type of love our culture bows down to is the all-accepting kumbaya-singing love of secular liberalism which accepts everything without passing any moral judgments (except for Christians because their moral standards are morally unacceptable). Over the last month two prominent figures have argued that the solution to our current issues, especially terrorism, is such a “love.” The first came from Pope Francis and the second from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg.
While “Use the weapons of love” may make for a nice slogan, it falls utterly flat in confronting the moral ills of our world. It was not this type of morally ambiguous love which brought down Hitler. What has brought down evil empires and movements throughout history has been a strong moral understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Accepting everything dos not defeat evil, it furthers it. Contrary to this secular understand of love, it is by rejecting evil and clinging to good that evil is thwarted. In order for that to happen we must understand what is good and what is evil—that means we need a moral foundation.
The answer is not secular love. The answer is found in the true understanding of love which is inseparable from holiness and moral judgments. As 1 John 4:10 explains, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Love is chiefly displayed in Christ satisfying the moral standards of God on behalf of his people. Love always conducts itself in a moral manner. That means it cannot accept evil, it must reject it for what it is (Romans 12.9). This is why the Christian has hope rooted in the love of God where our world is drowning under the false pretenses of the lies of this age.
Hope for the Christian is found in two spots. Hope for the now, for individuals to change, is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his act of love we can be made into his image and walk in obedience and true love. You want to see change? You need to encounter the holy-love of Jesus Christ. You need the gospel. That is the only way for true lasting change is to be made a new creation in Christ.
Hope for the future, for evil to come to nothing, is found in Christ’s return. The evil of terrorism and the other injustices of this world will come to nothing and punished when Christ descends as a conquering king. Then true love will end evil as Christ ushers in his Kingdom of peace which will last forever (Rev. 19:11-21). When Christ returns, his love will be evident, and it will be displayed by the reality that it is not all-accepting but that his love is holy and pure. This love is the answer to our problems. This love changes people and this love will bring an end to evil through Christ’s victory over it.