Persuaded by the Ethics of Love

Are Christians, above and beyond anyone else, not called to be dominated by the ethics of love? I would think such would be obvious from even a cursory reading of the words of Jesus: "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is [this notion comprises all that] the law and the prophets [maintain as a goal]." (Matt. 7:12; cf. Matt. 5:38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48) He insists that the two great commandments are to love God with all of one's being and to love one's neighbor as one loves him- or herself (Mark 12:30-31). What kind of love is being referenced?

That question is answered by John: "We know love by this, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us -- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another." (1 John 3:16; cf. John 3:16; Rom. 5:6, 8) The love being referred to, then, is a self-sacrificial love. Allow me to ask you: Would you lay down your life for a transgender person, a Muslim, a homeless man, a prostitute, a murderer, a child molester? Jesus died for these and more; He even died for self-righteous Christians who secretly think of themselves more highly than they ought (Rom. 12:3). Beverley Tucker and William Swatos, Jr., write:
Jesus taught us in words and in his own life that all our decisions and actions should be based on the principle of love (Jn 13:34). Since we believe in God, who is love (1 John 4:16), and in Christ, who is the incarnation and manifestation of love [and of God, cf. Heb. 1:3], we know that all our thoughts, words, and deeds should reflect this love (1 Jn 4:7-11). The Christian ethic proceeds from thanksgiving to God for all God's love, and produces a response of love on our part (Eph. 5:1-2).1
As believers, we are not allowed to pick and choose who we want to love, or for whom to give our lives. We are called to the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) and to a loving submission to the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:4, 5, 6; Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:18) who is also named the Spirit of love (2 Tim. 1:7b) and who produces or manifests love within the believer (cf. Ga. 5:22). We are known as Christians by our love (John 13:35).

For Jesus, love looks like the Cross, like sacrifice. (John 13:1) Love looks like giving up your rights, your freedom, for the rights and freedom of others. (Rom. 12:9, 10, 16) Love looks like passively allowing others to persecute and take advantage of you (Matt. 5:10, 11, 12; Rom. 12:14; 1 Cor. 6:7), without retaliation (Matt. 5:38, 39, 40, 41, 42; Rom. 12:14, 17, 19), but rather return a blessing (Matt. 5:43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48; Rom. 12:14, 20, 21).

Again, Tucker and Swatos, Jr., help us understand Christian love, "Christian love is the love with which God loves us, and it is our reflection of that love, in loving God and others. It is not just a feeling, nor just affection, nor just liking a person. Christian love is a matter of the will, for we are commanded to love even those whom we do not particularly like."2 Admit it: that is an uncomfortable truth that you sense is right deep down inside of your being. Our authors continue, noting that Christian love is
a giving of ourselves to the other, whether God or a person, and desiring the best for that other (1 Cor. 13:4-7). It is self-sacrificing love rather than acquisitive or possessive love. It is genuine justice, rather than judgment [recall that we will receive the amount of mercy we extend, James 2:13]. We can best see this love in Jesus Christ. (In older translations of the Bible this love is called "charity." In Greek it is called agape. . .).3
But does this love always appear polite? I fear that too many perceive of Christian love as a form of niceness that refuses to confront evil or injustice. Do not forget that Love incarnate, Jesus Christ, confronted the evil hypocrisy of the Religious Right of His day (Matt. 23:1-36). When I confront the ungodly and hypocritical antics of someone like Franklin Graham, I should not be perceived by conservatives as being hateful, but rather as someone unafraid to confront double standards, hypocrisy, and unbiblical principles. Would I die for Franklin Graham? Of course I would! He can make himself my enemy, or the enemy of LGBTQ people, but I refuse to make him my enemy.

I am persuaded by the ethics of Christian love to make no mortal my enemy: Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Sikh, New Ager, agnostic, atheist, pagan. I have only one enemy and that is the spiritual and demonic enemies of Christ (Eph. 6:12). Whenever we are opposing injustice, inequality, double standards and hypocrisy, we are living out loud the love of God's kingdom; for God opposes the proud (James 4:6), all forms of oppression (Zech. 7:10), injustice (Prov. 22:8) and partiality (Deut. 1:16, 17; Acts 10:34, 35; Rom. 2:11; James 2:1). If God loves the world (John 3:16) then we are to love the world -- not the world system that opposes righteousness and goodness and justice (1 John 2:15) but the world of people created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).


1 Beverley D. Tucker and William H. Swatos, Jr., Questions on the Way: A Catechism Based on the Book of Common Prayer (Cincinatti: Forward Movement, 2006), 54.

2 Ibid., 54-55.

3 Ibid., 55.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.