The “love wins” argument can be dangerous dogma.
It’s dangerous not because it’s not true but because “love” needs to be defined, especially in a day of moral relativism like ours. After all, today an appeal to love is used for everything from denying the reality of hell to normalizing incest, as a recent article in Cosmopolitan magazine shows.
In “This is What It’s Like to Fall in Love with Your Brother,” the international women’s magazine profiles the story of a woman who has a one-night stand with someone she knew was her biological half-brother. To compound the situation, both were married to other people at the time – oh, and one of them is in an open relationship, the other has since left his wife.
What a mess.
Yet Cosmo not only does not offer any censure of incest, but suggests that because of genetics the sister and brother “naturally” would be attracted to one another. So-called genetic sexual attraction provides a biological justification for perversion. Never mind that nearly 50 percent of children born of incestuous parents have physical and mental disabilities; as long as the couple loves one another, it must be okay. Right?
This is about as clear an example of moral relativism as one could ask for. What was once thought nearly universally to be wrong, eventually becomes acceptable, and finally becomes laudable. But, as Katherine Hepburn once said to Humphrey Bogart in the movie classic, “The African Queen,” “Nature is what we are put in this world to rise above.” And I would add, there’s a world of difference between lust and love.
Speaking both philosophically and theologically, love can be both a passion and a virtue; a feeling and a self-sacrificing way of living. Relationships often begin with physical, intellectual, perhaps even genetic attraction. Those attractions may explain how a man and woman begin their relationship, but they do not explain a woman caring for her husband in the advanced stages of cancer or a man caring for his wife with the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. To cite the Apostle Paul, “love is not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Love in the world of Cosmo is a selfish passion, not a self-giving virtue. Passion perverts. “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8). But it’s all about the definition, isn’t it?
So, here are a few lessons from the Cosmo confusion.
Find better relationship advice than from Cosmo. Although it was founded in 1886 as a family magazine, it has long since lost its moral anchor. It’s a pimp for conspicuous consumption and more like the Kama Sutra than a guide for healthy relationships.
Get married before having sex. If the Cosmo couple had gotten to know one another, heard one another’s stories, developed a relationship before jumping into bed, they might not have let their passion get the best of them and destroy every other relationship around them.
Love well. Love is passionate, but it’s not just a passion. Love feels, but it’s not just a feeling. Loves offers the best that one has for the genuine benefit of another, not for selfish pleasure. Love gives, sacrifices, and surrenders the self. That’s why true love wins!
Dr. C. Ben Mitchell is Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University and an editor of The NKJV Unapologetic Study Bible.