It is often assumed that because love is the greatest thing, it is the only thing.
A married man falls for a woman who is not his wife. “I love her,” he pleads. “And she loves me. I’ve never felt the same way about anyone else before. We were made for each other.”
The same appeal may be used by a homosexual couple: “We love one another. Why would anyone wish to deny us full expression of that love?”
Let us assume that, in each case, the feelings amount to more than infatuation or lust. These couples really do love one another. Doesn’t that fact alone justify the relationship? Well, actually, no. If love on its own could justify a relationship, then it is not only adulterous love and homosexual love that might pass the test, but also polygamous love, for example.
In fact, the logic would support Malcolm Marcourt’s vision for Gay Liberation of ‘a wide variety of life patterns’. These would include monogamy and multiple partnerships; partnerships for life and partnerships for a period of mutual growth; same-sex partners and opposite-sex partners; living in community and living in small family units. As John Stott wryly comments: ‘there seem to be no limits to what some people seek to justify in the name of love.’
Christian thinking on this matter must be guided by Scripture. When our Lord emphasised the priority of love for God and neighbour as the two greatest commandments, he did not thereby discard all the other commandments. Rather, he said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). And the same apostle who affirmed the ‘love is the greatest thing’ also wrote that ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom 13:8-10).
Commenting on the last-mentioned passage, John Stott says:
‘The truth is that love cannot manage on its own without an objective moral standard….For love and law need each other. Love needs law for its direction, while law needs love for its inspiration.’
See also Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today (4th ed.), p467.