If “Love is Love” Then What Does “Love” Even Mean?

by | Culture and Spirituality | 3 comments

The following video about love and inclusivity went viral just after Valentine’s Day a few years ago.

Its purpose was to promote an ethic of inclusion which presents all forms of human love as equal. As one participant summarizes at the end: “Love is love”.

The video is undeniably well made, visually effective, and emotionally compelling.

But utterly deceptive?

It’s hard to argue with a message that promotes love for all people; one that the Christian certainly affirms.

Jesus’ priority command for us after all was to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

But even in saying this, the critical thinker should raise two questions:

  1. Are all expressions of love really equal?
  2. What kind of love was Jesus talking about?

The error in saying “love is love”

We use the word “love” so casually in our speech sometimes that it often loses the impact of its meaning.

But despite our sloppy word use, even we understand that the word “love” means different things depending on how we apply it.

I “love” my kids, and I “love” chocolate cake. But I don’t love my kids and my cake the same way. In fact, to even compare the two is ridiculous, because though I’m using the same word, I’m describing two entirely different and unrelated things.

Simply put, when we use the word “love”, we employ one word to describe different kinds of things that are categorically distinct.

This sheds some light on the logical error committed in this video in its push for inclusivity and acceptance.

The video subconsciously tricks the viewer into embracing the acceptability of one kind of love on the basis of the acceptability of another.

When it presents

  • a disabled child with her sister and says “love has no disability”, and
  • a Hindu with a Christian saying “love has no religion”, and
  • a gay or lesbian couple with the caption “love has no gender”,

it’s actually presenting three separate and distinct things and treating them as if they were the same when they are not.

By glossing over this fact, however, through the power of images, it subconsciously tricks the viewer into embracing inclusivity and the acceptability of one kind of love on the basis of the acceptability of another.

How Greek words help us understand love

Ancient Greek culture clarified confusion about love greatly by using different words to describe different kinds of love.

In the New Testament, there were four words used for love (although broader Greek culture had as many as six):

  • Storge was love shared among family or kin.
  • Phileo signified a “brotherly” love shared between friends.
  • Eros was the designation for sexual love.
  • Agape signified the unmerited display of moral goodwill.

Notably, agape was the word Jesus used when he commanded his followers to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

It’s the word used most often of God’s love for man where he demonstrates his intention for our good despite our undeservedness. As Paul puts it in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love (agape) for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The real reason for saying “love is love”

Central to this video’s “love is love” message is the cultural push to normalize homosexuality. The Christian believes that this expression of (eros) love is opposed to God’s sacred purpose for human sexuality. But of course, this never stops the Christian from truly loving (agape) the homosexual too.

Remember that all media communicates values with their underlying worldview assumptions.

The remainder of this discussion can wait for another time. My purpose here is simply to help us guard against the uncritical acceptance of cultural messages embedded in the media all around us.  

As the message in this video goes, “love has no labels” because “love is love.” But on further analysis, it becomes clear that in order to embrace its sentimental notions of inclusivity and acceptance we must empty love of any real meaning.

Remember that all media communicates values with their underlying worldview assumptions. When popularized video clips and sound bites proclaim messages of acceptance and inclusion, but clearly oppose what God has revealed to be true, turn on your critical faculties and go digging for the error. It’s there to be found.

Love is a powerful force. But to quote 1 Corinthians 13 (which is ironically embedded in the video’s background music), “love rejoices with the truth” (13:6).

Originally published Jul 10, 2015, updated Feb 25, 2020.


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3 Comments

  1. Kim harris

    Well said! Thank you for once again challenging us to look closer st what we are faced with day in and day out via the media and social outlets.

    Reply
  2. Bev Andersen

    I was very interested in your take on this as there is so much right now in the news about the gay marriages in the states and how Christians are wrong in their views. One even went so far as to indicate we were sinning by eating bacon as if we did we hadn’t read the bible. I knew that was wrong but it was interesting that the person who said that indicated we hadn’t read our bibles. He/she definitely had not read theirs. I look forward to more from you on this controversial topic

    Reply
  3. Phil

    Scott,

    Thanks for helping us think critically. It’s crucial, lest we be misled.

    Phil

    Reply

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