Sermons I Don't Get to Preach

What We Mean When We Say Love

Under the heading of “Rants I Try Not To Take All the Time” is what we mean when we say “Love.”  I read it again this week from another Episcopal priest and writer on a popular article.  “We should be able to love whomever we want to love when we come to church.”

This is the left field response to “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”  The problem is that both are true statements, but they are both profoundly deceptive.  Often sin haters are also sinner haters, and when we say love we often mean “have sex with.”

That sounds crass, but it is fundamentally true.  There is no law against agape love described and proscribed throughout the New Testament.  There is nothing to stop you from laying down your life in service to another.  You can come to church and do that.

Now, honestly, it won’t be popular.  People may think you are somewhere on the crazy spectrum.  They may even crucify you.  But that kind of love is the love that we are commanded to have for our neighbors, our fellow Christians, and ourselves.

But what Tom and so many other writers are referring to is eros, sexual love or erotic love.  I think it is time to be clear and honest in our syntax.

This way of obscuring the issue is common in media and puts the commandments to love squarely in the middle of the identity debates, but not in a way that is helpful, clear, and honest.

The commandment to love sacrificially is for every Christian, and generally there is no law against such things, except for that odd city statute in Florida that prohibited feeding the homeless, but I cannot think of another.

The commandment to love is not abrogated by the identity or ethics of our neighbor.  We are to love them even if they want to “love whomever they want.”  And they are to love us.

We are to lay down our life for them, to serve them, to show honor to them, to be generous to them, to forgive their sins, and share the Gospel with them.  And if they are Christian, they are called to do the same for us.

On the other hand, who someone wants to sleep with is a matter of law in many and various ways for valid and good reasons.  Those laws range from professional prohibitions by church canon to keep parishioners safe to laws protecting children and family members, and while we may debate the particulars of those laws they exist for legitimate and moral reasons.  I support and encourage them.

You cannot have anyone you desire in church or in civilized society, thank God!  But you can love, are commanded to love, should love everyone.  But get your terms right.

Rant over, please return to a pleasant day.

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One thought on “What We Mean When We Say Love

  1. Thanx for that. I am glad to see an honest use of syntax on the matters of love, sex and agape. The rhetoric of the culture is like a whipping storm where honesty and truth seem so very obscured and hard to grasp in the heat of argument/discussion. Posts like this (I really hope it gets traction or others like it do), help with that.

    That said, I also really think the dishonesty goes largely beyond syntax. I think the syntax conveniently serves slogans and sound byte type communication which then obscures the truth. I sense that the confusion is really just confusion some of the time, and sometimes clearing that up is all that is needed. AND I think clearing it up is always necessary, but not sufficient. Because I think the dishonesty usually runs a bit deeper.

    Of course I am now running the risk of demonizing folk I disagree with, but I sense I am in an ever shrinking minority that is sabotaged in ways the syntax only plays a small part.

    I look forward to further address at that next level.

    Meanwhile, I really appreciate the message to this point.

    X

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