Love is Love
#loveislove. There is no difference between opposite- and same-sex relationships. If two people want to marry each other – any two people – they should be allowed to.
Love is love? It may be a popular hashtag on Twitter for the marriage equality movement, but the reality is that it’s simply not true. Love is not love.
There are different kinds of love, different expressions of love – and that’s okay. In fact, it’s great.
We use the word love in a million different ways every single day. We can love coffee, pizza, shopping, a sports team, our friends, our family, our pets, our school… and even though we use the same word, “love,” we all understand that there’s a difference. We know we don’t love cookies the same way we love playing baseball.
In the same way, our love for different people can – and should – look different. Jesus’ message is one of love; he tells us that the greatest commandment is love of God and love of neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). I have a responsibility to share His love with everyone that I meet. That’s my number one mission as a Christian, as a faithful Catholic.
But it is entirely appropriate that I express that universal love of God differently for the different relationships in my life. Something is appropriate when it fits the situation. It’s fitting for me to tell my mom that I love her. It would be awkward for me to tell the waitress that I love her, too – even though, in a Christian sense of the word, I do.
I need to treat the clerk at the mall with love, but that’s going to look different than the love I give to my friends. I love my parents differently than my classmates. I love my spouse differently than my coworkers (something that both the spouse and the coworkers appreciate, I’m sure).
Not the Same Love
And because I love all of these people differently, the way that I express my love for them will be different. That’s an okay thing to admit – it’s appropriate, and good. Recognizing the differences between the types of love is not an act of exclusion. We aren’t ranking types of love or saying this love is better than that love.
Our culture has taken this huge concept, this beautiful mystery of love, and reduced it – especially when it comes to romantic love. We’ve reduced love to romance and we’ve reduced romance to sex. Watch most movies or TV shows, and you’ll see couples ‘prove’ their love for one another by having sex, whether they’re married or not.
But love is so much bigger than sexual expression – even in romantic relationships. Sex is meant to be an expression of love in marriage, but even in marriage, it shouldn’t be the only way a husband and wife show love for one another. They express their love in a million different ways – by caring for one another, protecting one another, laughing together, listening to one another, cleaning the house for one another, etc., etc.
Sex is an important part of a good, loving marriage, but in no way is it the most important part. A marriage, if it is healthy, will be about so much more than sex. It will be about love – and real love is about making a complete gift of yourself, and receiving the gift of another.
Sex = Love?
The Church is denying same-sex couples sex, that’s true; but only because the Church knows that sex was made to be so much more than just a shared experience of pleasure. That’s why the Church denies everyone sex outside of a loving, committed, monogamous marriage between a husband and wife – because marriage is the only place where sex can fulfill its purpose and be everything that God created it to be. The Church knows that sex outside of marriage is a sin and sin leads to death (Romans 6:23) and Her only interest is in bringing people life.
But denying someone sex is not the same thing as denying him or her love – please, don’t reduce love to sex. Obviously, we all have sexual desires within us; that’s part of being human. But striving to live the virtue of chastity helps us to keep those desires under control, so that they don’t control us (CCC 2339). By limiting sexual expression to marriage, we actually live in real freedom. People with same-sex attraction can and should live lives full of love – in their families, in their friendships, in their churches – even if their lives don’t include sexual acts.
True Love Wills the Good
Our culture thinks it’s shocking and absurd that we would deny anyone sex… even though so many people in our world have been badly wounded by broken sexual relationships. Think about your own life – know anyone who slept with their boyfriend/girlfriend and then was devastated by the breakup? What about families torn apart by affairs? Or have you ever heard the testimony of someone who has left the porn industry?
Sex is powerful – and can be really dangerous and hurtful if we choose to violate its nature. Denying someone sex is NOT denying him or her love. And no one who has embraced the virtue of chastity would tell you that his or her life is lacking in love – in fact, the opposite is true.
St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as ‘willing the good of another;’ Blessed John Paul II said that the opposite of love isn’t hatred, but use (and therefore to use another person is worse than hating him); St. John said that God is love. Not one of those definitions says that sex is love.
Jesus told us to love one another. To truly love a person means putting their well-being above your own, which is why chastity is such an important virtue. Chastity protects us from using other people as sexual objects and enables us to treat everyone we meet with respect and real love.
We were all created from love, by love, and for love. A life of chastity is a life full of love – nothing less than true, authentic love for you and everyone in your life – and whether you are called to the single life, the priesthood, religious life, or marriage, love is the fundamental vocation of every single one of us (CCC 2392).