06 May 2014

Of leprechauns, mermaids, and "loving homosexual couples"

by Dan Phillips

If I were to ask what leprechauns, mermaids, and loving homosexual couples have in common, I'm pretty sure this readership would have the answer. I'd like to help you explain why you answer as you do.

What they have in common with each other is, of course, that they are all mythical creatures, living only in fantasy and imagination and every movie, TV show, and commercial in existence... or at least that's true in the latter case.
Also mythical. Sorry.

This is a truth that has obviously not reached everybody. In fact, apparently it hasn't even reached those who made the decision to become spotlight-Christians, performers whose entire career is predicated on their claim to be Christian — which is to say, lifelong and advancing students of the words of God (John 8:31-32). I have in mind here folks like Dan Haseltine, lead singer for the group Jars of Clay. Note this tweet of his:

This "loving gay couples" meme is heard so much today; it's hard not to think in response:

The whole stands or falls, of course, on the definition of "love." If "love" means sexual arousal, well then, okey doke, sport, I guess if you say so. Or if it means fondness, affection, attraction, or a hundred other emotional and even volitional states... well, how would we even have the discussion? If it's all about emotion, the "discussion" is really beside the point, isn't it? Feelings are thought...well, felt... to be self-validating. After all, you've got to follow your heart, right? And your heart is all about what you feel. Right?

Unless you start with the fear of God (Prov. 1:7) instead of the lordship of Ego and Eros. Then, everything changes.

To begin with the fear of God is to acknowledge, from the outset, the Lordship and ultimacy of God, and the dependence and fallenness of man. It is to acknowledge that our hearts cannot be trusted (Prov. 28:26 {NAS]; Jer. 17:9). It is to acknowledge that real life is only found in knowing God through His word (Prov. 3:18; 4:13; John 6:63, 68). It is to see that rebellion and unbelief are the sure way of death and misery (Gen. 2:17; Pro. 8:36; Rom. 6:23).

As we learn from God how He wants us to treat others, we learn that He wants us to love them, even if they are our enemies (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 5:44). We learn that love is not primarily about feeling. Love is about doing what is for the greatest good of the other, even if that costs us (cf. Exod. 23:4-5; Prov. 25:21). We see the grandest display of love in the Father's gift of His son for our salvation (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

So, you see, there never was such a thing as a "loving homosexual couple." Nor was there ever yet a "loving adulterous couple," or a "loving fornicating couple." Accomplices? Yes. Co-conspirators, co-perpetrators? Sure. But loving? Never.

Love is a commitment to the good of the other — and rebellion against God is never for the good of the other. Sin against God is never for the good of the other. Turning away from life and love and forgiveness and reconciliation, and embracing guilt and wrath and doom and despair, wrapped in a straitjacket of rationalizations and distractions — these things are never about the good of the other.

Real love will point someone away from sin and death, and to Christ, the Gospel, life and forgiveness. If that Christward call to repentant faith is absent, so is love.

This is one of those cases where the crystal-clear thinking that the fear of God teaches can stand as a bright beacon of witness to God's wisdom, in our murky, fogbound culture.

That is, if fitting in with the culture isn't our highest ambition. Which it never will be, once our own world has been tilted by the Gospel.

Postscript: this and related matters are opened more fully in "Adultery De-Glamorized," a sermon on Proverbs 6:24-35.

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Robert said...

Thanks for this, Dan. I am actually feeling a bit convicted because I was a bit selfish last night and was not putting my wife first. I have confessed, apologized, and repented, but this reminder of what marriage really is helps a lot. We (and all married couples) are one flesh and that has to actually mean something in how I act all day, every day.

Robert said...

Just wanted to say that my comment actually stresses your point. In a marriage with loving characteristics, when one of the spouses realizes they have done something to harm the other, they do something to remedy the situation out of love for the spouse. They don't just try to redefine the truth to suit their delfish desires that in the end are harmful for the one they love.

Just wanted to make sure I brought it back around to the point you are making.

Michael Coughlin said...

You made your point well. Although, I think the essence of the idea is that there are many homosexuals who really are loving others in a way which some heterosexuals do not.

Nonbelievers love too. My mom loved me dearly and very often did what was for my good. Those instances are not invalidated because she didn't teach me the gospel. Now, sometimes she did things she thought were loving which were not - I'm not speaking of those things.

So, yeah, the homosex part is not loving, but "gay couples" can most certainly express love and do as part of God's grace in the life of humans. What is most certainly not love is the identification as loving homosexual though, I'd agree with that point.

DJP said...

Sorry you completely disagree with the point of the post, Michael, but of course you're allowed to. To reiterate: no, a union that is premised against mutual encouragement in rebelling against God is not and cannot be a loving union.

Michael Coughlin said...

I'm sorry you misunderstood my comment. I agree with the point of the post (as I stated) and added (additional information) that I do not think it would be accurate to say that a gay person 100% all the time does not do any loving acts toward their chosen partner.

If you do believe that gay people NEVER do anything loving, I don't think you proved that. If you believe they can do something loving, then you are in agreement with the point I made which was in addition to the points you made and concurs with my example of a loving, unregenerate mother.

Although, as I stated, I do agree that there is no such thing as a loving homosexual couple as it is being expressed in our society.

Are you saying that unregenerate people commit no acts of love?

Or is it just certain unregenerate people who do not?

Or are there certain acts of unregenerate people which could be construed as loving which are overshadowed by their lack of love in the area of their disobedience?

Thanks in advance for adding clarification.

DJP said...

I think this post is enough ground for discussion, so I'll stick to this topic. "Loving gay couple," "loving adulterous couple," "loving fornicating couple" are contradictions in terms, for the reasons stated. And I think Christ and His apostles back this position up; that's where I learned it.

What's tragic is that these are controversial statements today among some professed believers. Our saintly ancestors' brains would burst into flames and explode.

Michael Coughlin said...

Fine with me. I apologize as I hadn't considered that my comment was tangential. Forgive me?

Back on topic: Would you consider David and Solomon to be "loving fornicating husbands?" Like, when Solomon wrote Song of Songs - all the loving verbiage about his wife and loving her - I suppose we must conclude that this was his "real" wife and not one of the others with whom he was fornicating?

I suppose the only wife they could have been considered to be loving would be the first one they took?

The Bible says Jacob loved Rachel, yet he was fornicating...so was his love real even though he fornicated?

Or does it just apply to the current relationship? So you can't be a loving fornicating couple, but you can be a loving couple who is not fornicating, even if one of the members is fornicating?

DJP said...

What I think is that "loving gay couple," "loving adulterous couple," "loving fornicating couple" are contradictions in terms, for the reasons explained in the post. Plug in any names you like.

Jim Pemberton said...

Spot on. Romantic love is inherently self-serving. Godly love is a) God-honoring and b) wholly other-oriented.

My men's theological reading group is going through Grudem's Systematic Theology / Bible Doctrine. This week's chapter on sin includes a comment from Grudem that not all self-centeredness is sinful. My observation is that the passages that point this out are actually an acknowledgment of and a strategy to use this sinful pattern to pursue righteousness. For example the love-others-as-you-love-yourself passages.

Terry Rayburn said...

If I may presume to be a peacemaker between Michael's and Dan's points, consider this:

A deviant psychopath kidnaps a child, puts them in the basement, and abuses them over years as a slave.

But he "lovingly" does "good" for them -- feeds them delicious meals, pets their head as he speaks soothing words of "love", let's them play X-box, etc.

Really "cares" for them in between beatings.

Yet, is it not true that the "relationship" he has established with his slave is NOT for their good, and makes a sham of so-called "love" exercised on sub-levels?


Or here's one more facet of the subject:

There are different "kinds" of love (our language limits us here).

But the most important "kind" of love (and that which I'm sure Dan speaks of) is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5).

It cannot exist in those who have not the Spirit, any more than a pear can exist without a pear tree.

Still, thank God for other kinds of love, since like flowers, they brighten our lives.

Of course a few folks like neither flowers nor love of any kind. But I digress.

DJP said...

Would you describe what the psychopathic pederast kidnaper and his victim have as a "loving" relationship, even if the former did a universe-full of nice things for the latter?

This is the whole point of my post. The very premise of the relationship disqualifies it for that label.

Cathy M. said...

Some time back, you wrote a post that began, "If you are not a christian, I know a number of things..." followed by a list of 15 facts about unbelievers. I would reference a link, but I only saved the list (sorry.) In this post you are addressing a narrow segment of unbelievers, but the attributes could obviously be applied to a loving mother or an adulterous couple.

Being "self-deceived, and definitionally unaware of that self-deception (Jeremiah 17:9)" they're categorically incapable of the type of love they attempt to imitate.

DJP said...

This one.

Terry Rayburn said...

Excellent list. With Bible proofs. My favorite kind. :)

Robert said...

Is my relationship to you loving if I am ushering you down a path that leads to eternal torment? That is the nuts and bolts question here. Situational ethics is a field that man has created to soften the blow, but God doesn't say be holy as I am holy unless x, y or z. God does see things in black or white in the areas He has clearly defined in Scripture.

The sexual relationship is one of those areas that is clearly defined as needing to be between one man and one woman. And when Paul expands this to say that this is a parallel to Christ and the Church, we should really think about what that means. Christ can not find another deity to make His bride (akin to homosexuality). He will not change into the Church in order to marry another deity and the Church will not change into a deity (both are impossible - same as changing gender). And the Church can not find another church group as its bridegroom. It just doesn't work for any of these ways that people try to make marriage work outside of one man and one woman.

There are implications that come along with trying to redefine marriage, appropriate sexual relationships, and gender. If one wants to be an ambassador of Christ (which all Christians are), then each of us needs to consider Who it is we are representing and put aside the worldly definitions, longings, and desires in order to put Him first.

Elisabeth said...

"This is one of those cases where the crystal-clear thinking that the fear of God teaches can stand as a bright beacon of witness to God's wisdom in our murky,fogbound culture."
I could not have said this any better myself. My sentiments exactly. Thanks.

David Rudd said...

As a short, bearded man of Irish descent, I am offended...

Jules LaPierre said...

"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" – Matthew 5:46

Loving homosexual couples=oxymoron.

Thanks for unpacking that truth, Dan.

Rebecca said...

John MacArthur says in his article, Marriage As It Was Meant To Be, "Love wants only the best for the one it loves, and it cannot bear for a loved one to be corrupted or misled by anything evil or harmful. If you really love your wife, you'll do everything in your power to maintain her holiness, virtue, and purity every day you live." Can a homosexual lover claim he or she is not leading his or her partner into corruption as defined by the bible? Do they encourage one another to holiness, to purity as defined by the bible? Do they see love as a responsibility to the one they claim to love? Do they each die to self? If heterosexual couples struggle with this, how much more so homosexual couples?

Rebecca said...

Wish there was an edit button. Let me make a correction on my comment. I said, "If heterosexual couples struggle with this, how much more so homosexual couples?"
Actually, it is impossible for a homosexual couple to encourage each other toward purity, holiness or die to self.

DJP said...

I get you. If it really bothers you, R, you can do one more comment that says exactly what you want to say, and I'll delete the first two and this one. Act fast, though. (c:

Rebecca said...

I will next time. Thanks, Dan

trogdor said...

Seems like it should be kind of obvious. I mean, you can put a little lavender scent on a big pile of asbestos fibers, but I wouldn't recommend inhaling it. Doesn't matter what acts of kindness or basic human decency dress up sin, it's still sin.

"But wait," the objection comes, "didn't even Jesus say that unbelievers love each other?" Indeed he did, and what he said about it is problematic for the objector:

"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" Mat 5:46

So there's common grace, by which we're not as utterly awful as we could be. One manifestation of common grace is a form of love, which even the worst unrepentant sinners have - a type of love based on mutual benefit. For example, the mutual affection of people using each other for sexual gratification.

Jesus acknowledges that type of love, and openly mocks the idea that it's even the least bit praiseworthy. Instead, the love Jesus commends is that which extends even to our persecutors, as God has grace on us rebels. And of course this love ultimately seeks the recipient's ultimate good, that they repent of rebellion and be reconciled to God.

Haseltine's ilk wants us to acknowledge the 'love' displayed by homosexuals, when they show affection and the most basic compassion while they use each other perversely and exhort each other to further revolt. Fine. We can acknowledge it exactly as Jesus did - as a shallow, pathetic, selfish 'love' that cannot compare to actual love.

I guess if what you mean by "they love each other" is "well, I guess it could be worse", alrighty then. But it's cruel to give them hope that such 'love' is what God desires, that it's in any way acceptable to Him or praiseworthy from us.

Calling the mutually-beneficial kindness which adorns blatant sin "love" just might be unloving.

Zac Dredge said...

"Being "self-deceived, and definitionally unaware of that self-deception (Jeremiah 17:9)" they're categorically incapable of the type of love they attempt to imitate."
Well said Cathy M.

The point that they do things in imitation of this then mistake it for the real deal is what's unloving, rather than their non-sexual acts of kindness to one another being inherently sinful. If a guy bought a male friend a gift that's no issue to the Word's definition of love, but the context of being in an unloving relationship, which contradicts God's Wisdom and decrees, makes this act an expression of that relationship and it becomes tainted by the sinful intention behind it(bolstering an un-Godly relationship). Having the will to do someone a kindness isn't enough if you don't know the truth well enough to be doing so in right relationship.
I believe the mother-son example someone mentioned earlier is different because - even if the mother is an unbeliever - parenthood is a God-given relationship which he commands we honour(children are a gift from Him and are to honour their parents etc). It would be better if she expressed God's love working through her, but that's not to say she is being unloving by giving to her child without being a new creation. Yet how much more could she give her son if she were doing so through the fruit's of the Spirit?

Yet there is this important understanding that the World denies; love and truth are inseparable.
Furthermore, the lie that loving acts must come from loving feelings is a classic reversal; if we do good to others it shifts our attitude to them to become more gracious and loving in our attitude. I wonder how many divorces could have been prevented by that simple understanding; how many adulterers could have staved away temptation simply by making an effort to good things for their spouse...

Michael Coughlin said...

Thanks, Zac. The explanation you gave for the distinction helps. That makes good sense.