As we ponder the magnitude of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, we all will come to some conclusions about what it means and what’s ahead. The slogan “Love Wins” (or, if you prefer, #lovewins) has become a sort of rallying cry for those who support the decision. I think it’s a fascinating catchphrase. It is at the same time completely misapplied and the most important thing that could be said. It says nothing and everything all at once.
Love has nothing to do with same-sex marriage for several reasons.
For one, marriage, as it pertains to government recognition, is a matter of legal standing. A while back, Susan Sarandon famously declared one does not need legal backing or a cultural label to make a relationship a lifelong, loving partnership. She was right. The fact that the State officially calls a relationship a marriage does not make it any more loving or permanent. We are all free to love whom we want, whether the government sanctions it or not. Same-sex partners loved each other just as much a month ago as they do now. I’m not saying legal standing doesn’t mean something or carry any weight. It does. It just doesn’t have anything to do with love.
Love was also not the reason marriage had been limited to one man and one woman. A two-person, heterosexual relationship is unique. It has the potential to produce offspring of which all partners can be the biological parents. No other relationship can do that. Furthermore, biological parentage is indissoluble. So a man and a woman establish a permanent lineal connection when they become parents. The State, in recognizing only two-person, heterosexual partnerships, was acknowledging these unique qualities.
The Supreme Court, along with much of society, has now determined those characteristics are not enough to justify the traditional limit on marriage. So, without considering biology anymore, we’ll have to establish a new definition of marriage. No matter what that ends up being, one thing is sure: it still won’t involve love. We won’t be able to deny legal standing to multi-partner relationships by saying they can’t love each other enough, or in the right way. The reality is the government has never had and never will have anything to say about love.
Yet there’s that simple, poignant proclamation: love wins. What truth is carried in those two words! Because when Jesus died on the Cross, love did win. In repentance and submission, grace is free to all. Nothing can defeat that, ever. How I do so wish we had ages ago adopted this phrase as our message to a weary, heart sore world.
In the current context, the victory of love is at work. Some were desperately clinging to the idea that the legal definition of marriage somehow endowed the right to treat homosexuals with contempt. Others were consumed by this one issue, committing all their social and political energy to this one cause. We must now turn away from that battle. It’s time to let go of things that have been weighing heavily on the neck of love.
This is where we really are: “They bleed on both sides.” We’ve been striking madly at anything within reach, and in this melee of anger, derision, and pertinacity, the sword of sin has wounded us all. This is a new chance to step out of the ring and a renewed call to live out the Love of Christ:
- Love is patient - we are all, no matter our sexuality, in a lifelong struggle with sin.
- Love is kind - how we treat each other demonstrates who we are.
- Love does not boast - do not flaunt your sexuality, no matter what kind it is.
- Love does not dishonor others - in spite of sin, no one has given up the dignity God gives.
- Love is not self-seeking - ask God with all your heart to help you seek his will, not yours.
- Love is slow to anger - just take a deep breath; God is still here.
- Love keeps no record of wrongs - your hurts may be many and deep; ask Jesus to bear them.
- Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth - in accordance with God’s will for our bodies, the Church will not recognize same-sex marriage.
- Love always protects - in this world there are those who hate homosexuals and those who hate the Church; have nothing to do with either.
- Love always trusts - welcome homosexuals into Christian fellowship, trusting God to restore all; accept that the Church will not condone same-sex marriage, trusting God to abide with you.
It won’t be easy or immediate. We’re talking about releasing things we’ve been clutching tightly for a long time. It’s going to hurt; there will be cramps. For many, it will take a strength and trust unknown until now. Whatever is needed, God will give, as he always has, to those who plead in faith.
We will see Love Wins a lot in the coming months. It won’t mean the same thing to everyone, at least not yet. All of us can know that love indeed wins, and we can choose to be part of that glorious triumph.