1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.”
Reflection: Love is not a Christian-only institution and it is not a heterosexual-only concept. Love belongs to us all and it is something we can all express and share freely. But what is it? The Bible gives us a few hints in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The nice thing about this definition is that it is universal and applies to all peoples, all cultures, and all expressions of gender and sexuality. Because above all things love is humble, patient, kind, and enduring. It is never ending. It believes and hopes that all things are possible. Love is willing to tolerate any and all hardships and trials and obstacles.
Love simply is. It is not meant to be complicated. It is not meant to be owned or monopolized either. Love was not intended to be used as a weapon or used as a platform from which to stand over others. Love believes in truth and rejoices in it. The truth is, life is so much better with love in it than without it. Life is more meaningful when two people who care about each other’s well-being can enter into a committed, dedicated relationship with each other and express their truest, most sincerest, most honest selves to each other.
There seems to be no shortage of people trying to define love under strict terms of heterosexuality. That only heterosexuals know how to love or that love strictly belongs to heterosexual people. Just as there is no shortage of people who wish to define marriage as a sacred union solely between a man and a woman. Plenty of people consider homosexuality or bisexuality to be expressions of lust or sexual dysfunction. They don’t see love. They determine for the LGBT community what love is and how two members of the LGBT community can express themselves, if at all, in a committed relationship. There is no shortage of heterosexuals out in the world that would like to force the LGBT community to conform to heterosexual standards and the gender binary stereotypes. They have no regard for the spectrum of sexuality or sexual attraction and they have no regard for the spectrum of gender expression either. The world seems very black or white to many. The world seems very rigid in its definitions.
Yet the Bible does spell out what love is and how it is expressed between people. We have stories of Naomi and Ruth, expressing love for each other in my previous post. We have stories of the expressions of love Jesus has for sinners, children, tax collectors, and even those who would deny him or betray him or crucify him. We have stories of love all through the Bible, in all different expressions and relationships. Why should we think to confine love to belonging to only one culture or one group or even one definition?
Why do people assume that other expressions of love beyond the heterosexual realm of love is somehow less natural or deviant or in any way dangerous or disgusting? If people are irresponsible, abusive, manipulative, or using affection and physical attraction to manipulate a relationship– clearly that is abusive and wrong–obviously. There is a distinction anyway between lust and love. Just as there are many examples of people who commit adultery and cheat on their significant others. There are plenty of heterosexuals that would claim to know what love and marriage is but act contrary to their own principals by cheating or divorcing multiple times or being abusive. Rape isn’t love. Hitting and hurting your partner is not love. Putting yourself or your partner at risk for sexually transmitted diseases is not love. There are many ways people mistreat each other and lose sight of what love is and what love requires of us. But don’t think for a second that only the LGBT community is vulnerable or irresponsible or at risk. Sin reaches everyone whether they are gay or straight or bisexual or transgender.
There is nothing un-natural about expressing physical affection and attraction for someone you sincerely care about. There is nothing abnormal about two men or two women expressing such affection and deep love for each other that they seek a dedicated relationship. There is nothing abnormal about wanting physical intimacy with someone you are attracted to and someone you care about. It’s when you shirk your responsibilities and forget how to love that the situation may turn sour. It’s when you forget about caring about the well-being of your partner that you run into dangerous territory. If you think there are short cuts or aspects of love you can skip over or set aside, you may find yourself sorely at a loss and mistaken and find yourself out of a relationship very quickly.
Maybe it is fair to say that the LGBT community at a time in its early history had to be more careful or more consciously aware of the risks involved in having sexual relations– but now in the 21st century, everyone has to be more aware of the risks of unprotected sex and risky sexual behaviors. Everyone has to take responsibility for their bodies and sexual health. Everyone puts themselves at risk when they enter into a sexual relationship without educating themselves about safe sex and contraception and the risks and dangers of spreading sexually transmitted diseases.
Love is knowing about the risks. Love is caring about your body and the body of the one you love. Love is being smart about safe sex. Love is about being careful. Love is knowing the difference between love and lust. Love is knowing that HIV/AIDS is still a threat and a threat to all people– not just the LGBT community. Love is about safety, consent, and sobriety as well.