You may have heard that phrase before or recently seen flags with this slogan.
On the one hand its meaning is ambiguous because normally a definition goes along the lines of “A cat is a small four legged house pet.” A definition by nature defines something.
Regardless of the ambiguity in this case the meaning is clear. ‘Love is love’ is put forward to mean that any emotional attachment we might feel toward someone (or something) regardless of who (or what) that is, is justified merely on the basis of the emotion being displayed. It doesn’t matter who or what you love because ‘love’ trumps all values.
Imprecision in definition is a practice open to abuse.
In 1971 Oxford defined love as “that disposition or state of feeling with regard to a person which manifests itself in solicitude for the welfre of the object, and usually also delight in his presence and desire for his approval; warm affection, attachment.” Aside from neglecting to note love as a verb and not a noun (an action and not a thing) at least 1971 Oxford has a meaty definition.
Today Mr. Oxford defines love as “a very strong feeling of liking and caring for somebody/something [sometimes romantic].”
The best definition I’ve ever encountered for love (Greek, agape) means to prefer, to prefer someone or something more than yourself, to prefer what God has said, and to show this through one’s actions. This is the definition we find in 1 Jn 5:3a:
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
By definition then, to love means to prefer what God has said (the truth) and do it. If we prefer anything and do anything other than what He has said it cannot be love but is sin; and we humans love to sin. Thankfully God preferred us so as to send His Son to rescue us from sin (Jn 3:16) so we might live a life of true love, love for God and others as defined by Him, the author of reality.
Because words have meaning and meaning conveys truth and truth never changes (Heb 13:8; 1 Pet 1:25) it actually does turn out that ‘love is love’ after all but not in the way many think.
The story of Moses is well known, even if you don’t know much about the Bible. For Christians it is a cherished story. Hidden within it, however, is a gem for those of us who experience suffering that teaches us about the higher purpose of seeing God’s glory.
In Exodus God’s people were suffering and God heard their cries and called Moses to tell Pharaoh to ‘let my people go!’ When Moses met the leaders this was heralded as good news (ch. 4). However, when Moses actually announced this to Pharaoh he made life worse for the Israelites by adding burdens to their work. The result was that the people complained (ch. 5).
So God’s will (to rescue His people from suffering) actually resulted in more suffering for His people! Now to be sure God is never the agent of sin (Jas 1:13) but that is not to say that everything is ultimately part of His will (Eph 1:11). God may be the first cause but His will is worked out through secondary causes (Acts 2:23, 4:27–8). This lesson is key to the storyline of Exodus.
Moses, recognizing something of this, puts the situation back into his God’s face who had begun this saga in the first place. Listen to what he said to the LORD (Ex 5:22–23):
22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”
Why is a question we often ask when we suffer as Christians. Why Lord, why!? Yet God was still keeping His promises and teaching both Egypt and Israel of His glory, the glory of His justice and the glory of His grace. Listen to the LORD’s reply to Moses:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”
It was through suffering that the Lord would teach His people of His glory. If the hardships were not great the display of His glory would be trivialized. Think of what would have happened if God had simply allowed Pharaoh to ‘let His people go’ immediately. Israel would not have learned to depend upon Him, nor seen His might or His love. They would not have been as grateful or experience as great a salvation. It was through trusting the Lord in the suffering that they would see His glorious power.
It is like that in our lives too. Why God will’s suffering remains a mystery; but that He works all things for good for His people is a promise we can depend upon (Ro 8:28). When we suffer we must in faith humbly trust the Lord’s will and know His will display His glory and accomplish what is for our greater good as we wait upon Him.
Have you ever met someone who is a Posivitist? What is a positivist? Someone who will only allow positive thinking (c.f. mindfulness), affirmations, self-empowerment, promotes a “positive space,” displays or writes positive plagues or mantras, advocates acts of kindness, feels and uses ‘energies’ and never accepts critique or realism. This is a positivist and positivism is positively growing in our society!
When I first encountered a positivist I was—frankly—confused. Where is this coming from? What does this person believe? How widespread is this and what effect is this having on our culture? Without knowing more I was unequipped to deal with it as a Christian.
Where does such thinking come from?
There are a number of possible sources by which some might arrive at this way of thinking:
Simply put Positivist believe that fostering “a positive mental attitude, supported by affirmations, will achieve success in anything.” How one thinks is central to tapping into the spiritual universe to bend it to your will. Spirituality is impersonal and self-focused.
What affect is it having on our culture?
In a culture that desires to appear spiritual and fix their problems themselves Positivism offers a lot of perceived benefits (chiefly feeling spiritual without God). If you look around it has worked its way into self-help workshops, schools, counselling, stress management, corporate practice, preaching, etc. You might say it is ‘everywhere’ and its way of thinking is so prevalent bits of it can be absorbed into our way of thinking often without even realizing it.
A Biblical Critique/Alternative
Now certainly the Bible would have much to say against ‘impossibility thinkers’ as it related to faith and hope in the God of the impossible; yet the Bible is also a realistic book (we call this truth) and often speaks in the negative concerning sin or lies (“thou shalt not”), while positively endorsing what is right and true (“Honour your father and mother”).
On key questions that religions and worldviews address, Christianity and Positivism are more often than not at complete odds:
How can we share the Gospel with a Positivist we may know or love? Certainly there are inconsistencies, certainly upon what objective truth one basis their belief needs to be considered; yet ultimately we share the Gospel with gentleness, respect and conviction and let it reverberate against their worldview. They are looking for someone; it’s Jesus. Point them to him as the answer to their spiritual quest.
As many who know me will attest I love the local church because Jesus loves the local church. It is the primary vehicle through which the Lord works. It is the visible expression of membership in the universal church. Acts spends 16% of the time talking about the universal church and 84% speaking about the local church. Local churches are autonomous, or independent bodies; that is with Christ as the head over the Elders and congregation there is no organization or denomination that ultimately force a congregation to do or believe X,Y or Z, though many congregations choose to affiliate with other likeminded believers.
We may be independent but really we should exist independency with other Gospel churches. Independency is seeing independent churches working together for the cause of Christ. All too often local churches can exist as silos as if the rest of the church did not exist. This is surely to the detriment of Christianity.
We see the principle of independency well illustrated in Baptist history and the Bible:
This is why we already partner in Association pastors’ gatherings and New Life Camp, why local pastors meet for Bible study and prayer, exchange pulpits and why MBC holds Christian events of interest for other churches.
Independent; yet independency.
This is not a question unique to today (though emotionalism and universalism perhaps make it more difficult to address). Infants died in Bible times, pioneer Ontario, and indeed still today. Although infant mortality has decreased, still children die, particularly the unborn (miscarriage, abortion, the disposal of embryos in fertility treatments, etc). So long as there are children and so long as there is sin and death this question will be relevant.
Before I begin to give a basic and introductory response, I want to emphasise that I do not embark on seeking to answer this question as if from a distance. My wife and I lost numerous children through miscarriage and we have had close friends and family members suffer the loss of both unborn and newborn children. Something else that I must stress before I proceed is that this question is often approach through emotionalism. While our affections have a role to play we must submit ourselves to Scripture, conceding that our ways are not God’s ways (Isa 55:8–9). Generally when we are uncomfortable about something in the Bible God is correct and we are wrong. If you proceed in reading this blog please pause, pray and be open to reason [or reasoning] (James 3:17). Christianity is like a train and the order of that train is important. First must come the train, then the car and finally the caboose. Put another way, first must come fact (or the promises and truths of God), then faith (or belief in those) and then feeling. Get the order wrong and the train soon runs off the track to wherever we want it to go. Get the order right and it runs smoothly along.
The question centres around salvation and namely, if the Bible teaches original sin and the need of salvation (which it clearly does), what about children? It also touches upon our beliefs about what the character of God should be in relation to this question, either leaning toward His love (how could a loving God allow…) or His justice (God is soft on sin if...).
Numerous passages and verses in the Bible teach original sin, but three are perhaps most pertinent to this subject.
The first is Psalm 51:5 where the Spirit says through David: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. This verse teaches that not only from birth but from conception we are sinners.
The second is Ro 5:12, which addresses why we are born sinners. Here the Spirit says through Paul: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. This means that because the head of the human race—Adam—sinned, all humans are born sinners (original sin). Not only are we born guilty sinners but we also co-opt into sin through sinful choices throughout our lives.
Thirdly, and perhaps the most challenging, come passages like Deut 20:16–18 and 1 Sam 15:2–3 where the Spirit says the following about the destruction of the Canaanites:
2 Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”
We must remember that these passages speak of judgement because of societal sin of a great magnitude (with simply a different means to address it being commanded than against say Sodom and Gomorrah). It does not spell genocide. Traditionally this total judgment has been understood by Christians as a real event backed up by archaeology, but also as a picture of hell.
If children had no sin, children wouldn’t die, because death—generally speaking—comes from sin (Ro 6:23b).
In light of these three passages, we return to the question.
There have been at least 8 ways that Christendom has sought to answer this question.
 In 2020 there were 1622 infant deaths under the age of one (or 4.2%), 74,155 abortions and untold deaths of embryos in fertility clinics.
 I believe it is possible to differentiate between the immorality of abortion for instance and issues of infant salvation. One is a moral issue and the other spiritual.
 Jesus saying, “let the little come to me” has as little to do with salvation as it does baptism, rather Jesus is breaking down barriers in the apostles hearts, because the Gospel was not meant for “us” (the disciples or the Jews) but for them (Jews and Gentiles and all who believe).
 This is very similar to forms of universalism where it is believed people will get a second chance before entering heaven to believe (but see Heb 9:27).