God is love.
This is a fairly simple statement, and yet at the same time it is quite profound.
While love does not exhaust the attributes of God, it describes his essence, what he truly and really is, not just what he might display upon certain occasions. God is loving in all his actions in the same way that his goodness, truth and wisdom are integral to all that he does and all that he is.
It is not that God attains to some external quality of love, existing independently of himself; rather, it is that love is defined by God himself. For us to understand the quality of love we must first know God. In the words of the apostle, our notion of love can only be derived from the God who is love. “Whoever does not love does not know love; for God is love” (1 John 4:8).
Conversely, those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them, for “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
The contemporary clamour for same-sex marriage has experienced a renewed vigour in Australia following the recent Irish referendum where a majority of votes favoured a change in the status of marriage. Yet it is not often observed that only 60.5 per cent of the adult population voted in the referendum where 62.1 per cent voted yes. This means only 37.5 per cent of the adult population voted yes, while 62.2 per cent did not vote yes!
In Australia, the proponents of same-sex “marriage” are seeking to win the argument on the nature of love: “If two people love each other, why can’t they get married?” The equation of love and marriage is at the heart of the problem. True love, according to the Bible’s teaching, is knowing God’s love. While all men and women can experience something akin to this love by virtue of God’s common grace to all his image bearers, it is only when we abide in God’s love that we can truly love God and truly love each other.
John’s first description of love may have a specific application to marriage, yet it is love among the Christian community that is his prime purpose (1 John 4:7ff). For just as love is a defining characteristic of God, so it should be a defining characteristic of God’s people.
The reason why the Bible is opposed to same-sex marriage is not because God discourages true love between individuals, whether they be men or women. Rather, the Bible sees the unique relationship of a man and a woman, bound together in love, as the foundation of the family, the place where children can be born and nurtured. It is actually God’s idea that a man should leave his mother and father, cleave to his wife and the two become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), and it has been universally recognised as the foundation of human society ever since God spoke these words.
Yet love is not restricted to marriage. A man should love his neighbour and a woman should love her friend, regardless of gender. One of our problems in Western society is that we are surrounded by so many sexual temptations that we so readily equate love with self-fulfilment in the sexual arena. But this is not God’s plan. We should celebrate love in holiness. Hence the Bible records the love of David for Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1), exhorts Christian men to treat “younger women like sisters in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1), invites all to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16) and also teaches husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25).
Marriage is only for this life. It is not an institution that will exist in the new heavens and the new earth (Matthew 22:30) because the need for procreation will have ceased. This is the link that advocates of same-sex marriage do not grasp, for same-sex unions cannot by their very nature produce children. Marriage is not principally about love. Love is principally about relationships and, as Christians, we should rejoice in loving relationships wherever they are found. While sexual relationships have certain boundaries, as the Bible prohibits sexual intercourse outside of marriage, love has no boundaries.
Marriage is only for this age but love remains forever (1 Corinthians 13:13).