Advocates for behavior considered immoral by Christians who believe the Bible is God's inerrant word, have successfully used the idea of "love" to affirm homoerotic behavior, to redefine marriage and family, to justify pedophilia, and as theologian and pastor James Emery White recently pointed out, to justify assisted suicide.
The problem, White writes in his blog, Church & Culture, is that the "love" described to normalize these behaviors is "not the biblical idea of love."
"There is a new cultural apologetic that is fast becoming the go-to argument to ensure affirmation and approval of previously immoral activities," he writes. "And it is an argument taken straight from the Bible: Love."
White, the founding and senior pastor at Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, explains that love is the ultimate ethic and that everyone knows that the greatest commandment is to love (Deuteronomy 6), "and when asked, Jesus agreed it was the greatest of all commandments (Mark 12)."
"By now we are all familiar with how homosexuality and gay marriage shifted the entire cultural debate by making it about the affirmation of loving relationships," he states. In one of White's previous blogs, he details the argument made by pedophiles in favor of pedophilia, namely that it was a "loving" act.
"Now enter assisted suicide," White writes. He used the headline and accompanying story from National Public Radio,"How a Woman's Plan to Kill Herself Helped Her Family Grieve," to help illustrate his point.
He points out that the obvious slant was that "her assisted suicide was all about her concern for others, and the feelings of others. It was all about, …love."
White explains that the woman featured in the story was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and decided to end her life before it took hold, a "collective experience that [she and her husband] and the people they loved all went through together." A type of memorial service was held before her death.
"It was just so obvious that this is about as good as it gets for a human exit," White quoted her daughter saying as reported in the story. "She was surrounded by everyone who loved her, they were telling her how and why they loved her. This was not a bad way to go."
Two days later, her mother died of a drug overdose. While speaking of her mother's death, the daughter added, "It made it less like a grieving process and less like a sort of horrible thing that had happened, and more like something that made sense and felt right and actually had some joy to it in its own way."
White writes that the Christian idea of love is not simply an emotional state or feeling. "It is the turning of a heart away from self and toward another in a way that is filled with empathy and affection, grace and truth, selflessness and sacrifice," he said.
Love for others is rooted in love for God, White states. "We love God with all of our hearts, souls, mind and strength, and from that, our neighbor. But if we 'love' our neighbor in a way that is antithetical to a love for God and His commands, then it is no love we show," he writes. "Such love is mere sentimentality, adrift from truth, driven by the uncertain and often deceptive waves of emotion. In the end, it is simply whatever we 'feel.'"
He concludes, "So applaud the new cultural apologetic in that it is talking about love. But then add to the conversation by defining it."