Love is Always Discriminating

do-you-love-me-filtered“If you love me you will accept me.” This common refrain, though ubiquitous, greatly misunderstands the reality of love. This misconception of love asserts that full acceptance is required for meaningful relationship, that love itself cannot be discerning about the behaviors, attitudes, and ideals of another. The reverse is actually true. Love is always discriminating.

Love is an earnest commitment to seek the well-being of another regardless of cost to self. Well-being, however, is not defined arbitrarily. Well-being may be subjective in some sense, as in it is relative to this individual’s needs at this moment, but it is ultimately grounded in universals. It must be. An example might help.

Many of my readers will know the famous slogan, “real friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” How can we apply this principle so broadly, so universally? Because it’s true universally that drunk driving can lead to serious harm. The National Highway Safety Administration reports that every two minutes someone is injured in a drunk driving crash, and every day 28 people die from these crashes. The FBI reports that in 2011 there were 1.2 million drivers arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. It is dangerous for everyone when friends let friends drive drunk. The slogan is true, universally. Love, then, must be discriminating. It must choose what is in the best interest of the friend and act upon that choice.

The same is true when we speak of sexual ethics. While many may validate the drunk driving principle, there is far less interest in agreeing to universal sexual ethics. Here, we seem to think that true love will support whatever my inclinations and desires are. So, friends claim that if I don’t support their homosexuality then I must not really love them. This is hard, because I do care about these friends, deeply, yet I do not agree with their sexual practices and lifestyle. In their mind, however, such a concept is not possible. Either I fully support them or I don’t love them, and while they don’t mean this tactic to be manipulative, it often is. The truth is friends often disagree on many important issues but still find ways to love each other. Another example might help us to see again the principle of discriminating love.

Glen Stanton offers a helpful example in his book Loving My LGBT Neighbor. Suggest a friend of yours decides that she is going to have an affair. She tells you that she is going to sleep with another man who is not her husband and hide this secret from her spouse. A good friend will try to persuade her that this is a bad idea, that it will hurt her family, that it will create distance between her and her spouse, that it will dishonor their relationship and commitment, and that the affair will not ultimately satisfy her. A good friend will confront her. Generally speaking good friends will try to dissuade one another from having affairs. The friend may respond, “If you loved me, you would see how right this is for me.” Stanton writes:

Who of us would think what you did was mean? That all you need to do is loosen up and support your friend in what she wants to do? Who are you to judge? They’re both adults, after all. No, we easily understand that disagreement and saying so is sometimes the only loving thing to do. (104)

True love is always discriminating. It recognizes what is best for an individual and seeks to point another towards that best, even at cost to self. Even at cost to relationship.

True love must always make choices, and we want to always choose what is truly best for our friends. It is not loving to let your friend drive drunk. It is not loving to let your kids stick forks in electrical sockets. It is not loving to let your friends rebel against God. When we love we speak the truth. We do so with grace, not with judgment to be sure (and Christians need help with that too), but we speak the truth nonetheless. Even when it hurts, even when it costs us. Because we love we must be discerning. True love is always discriminating.

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