Making Pride Month Meaningful: Using it to Expose My Prideful Understanding of Love

Jun 14, 2024 by David Fowler

Making Pride Month Meaningful: Using it to Expose My Prideful Understanding of Love
Christians often smirk at the silliness of the tautology associated with Pride Month—"Love is Love.” No doubt it lacks any meaning and expresses nothing about the purpose of love or to what (or who) love should be directed. But like I did last week, I took this week in Pride Month as an occasion to consider something I assumed I understood: love. I was undone. I saw in my understanding an element of pride I had never considered before.

I think it would serve all who are caught up in Pride Month, pro and con, to ask themselves:

What might a person think an important theme in the Bible if they came to it with no preconceived notions other than being a work of literature composed of different literary genres covering thousands of years human existence telling one developing story to help us understand things about ourselves?

Something called love would certainly make the list of themes. But the question is, what is love, and what is it for?

Love Starts to Look Deadly

Laying aside for the moment how Christians conduct themselves, they believe the answer to these two questions is fundamental to what kind of creatures God thinks humans are and what they are for. But, again, what is love?

Let’s begin by considering Colossians 3:12-13 where we read the apostle Paul telling the “elect of God, holy and beloved” to “put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Great things for anyone to work at, though none of us does them well or does them well all the time.

But the Apostle adds something in verse 14 that should startle all of us: “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (emphasis supplied).

If my doing all those great things is not love per se and if, by implication, they are destitute of what God considers love without something more, love starts to look like a noose around my neck condemning my best efforts to be the kind of person Paul describes.

So, love is something more than those things? Yes.

The Apostle Paul Doubles Down What Love Is and Isn’t.

In fact, those verses in Colossians do not stand in isolation. The Apostle Paul also wrote this to the Christian in Corinth:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

This is outrageous! None of these behaviors—the kind that Christians along with silver-tongued writers and philosophers, philanthropists, and community activists might glory in—profit me? Even a faith that could move mountains doesn’t profit me?

“Nope,” says the Apostle; just the love that’s in them.

Such a high expectation makes one want to say, “Then what in God’s name is this love if these noble acts don’t measure up to the love God expects from us?”

Asking God is a good place to start, because not understanding what love is can be the death knell to a local church or a whole denomination.

The Love Noose Can “Hang” Even Doctrinally Sound, Social Warrior Kinds of Churches

Whole congregations of Christians should find very concerning what the Apostle John writes in his “revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1):

To the angel of the church of Ephesus write,

These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. (Revelation 2:1-4).

Sounds like what I would have once considered a top-of-the line church.

But, again, it’s not enough. John adds, “Nevertheless, I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.”
And then the hammer of a disintegrating type of judgment is raised over the church’s head:

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5).

It’s as if Jesus is saying, “This love thing is so serious and fundamental, I will not allow churches like this to continue to exist.” Understanding the reason God would extinguish a church like this is so important,[i] but the admonition alone should awaken every minister and every congregation from its dogmatic slumber.

Love Is Evangelical in Nature or It Is Nothing

Evangelical is a word I don’t much like now because the evangel (good news) is so unrecognizable compared to how it was once understood and how a right reading of the Bible presents it—a revelation of God that is foremost about God but for the good of those who are created in His image.

Here’s the reason the apparently noble conduct described above is not love in God’s sight:
It is a fruit of the Spirit of God, an effect of faith . . . That which renders it peculiarly gospel love, is its being the product of the Spirit of God in our hearts. . . . I cannot turn aside to how we may know whether love be a fruit of the Spirit, or arising from our own natural inclination. But this only I say, it [love] is a fruit of the Spirit, a product of the Holy Ghost in us, or it belongs not to [a Christian’s] work.[ii]

In other words, if I think of love as something I can gin up in myself, by an act of my will or intellect, especially when I consider my natural temperament in various circumstances, then it is a love of my own prideful imagination, not evangelical love. 

The kind of love that God is after can only be an “effect of faith” because His kind of love—that which in God is infinite in its “breadth, and length, and depth, and height” (Ephesians 3:18) and enjoyed eternally and without dissipation in the relations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is just not in me.

Here is the Evangel, the Good News

Yet, having a share or participation in that kind of love is what mankind was created for:

No small part of the eternal blessedness of the holy God consists in the mutual love of the Father and the Son, by the Spirit. Thus, to commune in this fellowship as a creature would be our greatest joy, glory, and benefit.[iii]

But I have not always thought of God and what I was created for in that way. None of us naturally does. That’s because we now come into this world with the image of God in us so disordered and distorted that we can no longer find any enjoyment in the love that is in God.

That’s where the evangel, the good news, comes in: Christ is fully able to re-create and perfect in us the image of God so that we can again, as originally intended, take delight in a perfect and infinite-in-every-direction-we-look kind of love!

How is that so? Because Christ is the Son of God who took on human flesh—the same as ours—but never sinned, we, by the work of the Holy Spirit, can be “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son” (Romans 8:28) who “is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

And when that restoration and transformation is complete, we will be the kind of creaturely beings who are able to revel forever in fellowship with the kind of love we were made to enjoy—God’s love.

Propositionally, it is reasonable sounding, but only a God-given faith will apprehend it as objectively real and true. That’s why faith comes before real love—the kind God produces in us from Himself—and to believe God can do that means real love must be a fruit of faith.

Applying This to Me

The Bible tells me that supernatural faith that God supplies produces in us God’s kind of love that covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). My self-imagined love can’t do that.

I’ve got a long way to go, but I know where the journey is taking me, despite all the relational bumps in the road along the way.
[i] When a church can’t show to the world a faith-produced love, a “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6), it has missed its purpose, because Jesus said, “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If a church or denomination can’t do that, it has no substantial witness of who Jesus is. Then, like the Church at Ephesus, it is headed toward having its light extinguished by God. That’s how serious a demonstration of His kind of love among those who profess to be His people is to Him.
[ii] John Owen, Sermon XLII, “Gospel Charity” (emphasis supplied).
[iii] Ibid.

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