A while ago there was a cute little Facebook saying that made its rounds. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, it’s attributed to Rick Warren, and he said
Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.
While I think that is right, I also think it is incomplete. You see, those are very true and are most evident on social media. Since nobody has the courage these days to speak their mind respectfully in person, the only other apparent option is to verbally vomit on fellow Facebookies. I regularly find myself enthralled in discussions on Facebook from topics of vaccines/anti-vaccines to abortion. When the discussion is respectful, it stands out to me because our culture dictates that if I disagree with you then I must be a bigot. Or if you disagree with me then you must be naive. I think the above statement is correct, yet incomplete though because it does not take into account the greatest deception of all.
I believe this greatest lie has permeated every facet of our culture, down to our very humanity, and it is one which can only be undone by seeing the opposite in action. Much like disproving a theory can only be done by proving the opposite as true. The greatest deception we have accepted as truth is not that love and disagreement are mutually exclusive; it is that love is not a choice.
Let me say that again.
The greatest deception of our time is that love is not a choice.
This one simple idea has caused the movement that our actions are not our own. It has caused us to disassociate our words from the impact they have on those who hear them. It has caused us to be blinded to the effects that our choices have on those around us, and it has created a rift between ideologies that can be seen playing out in the news and on social media all around the country.
I’ve heard people respond to this idea by explaining that they are compelled to love their child because of the biological connection, and therefore this love is not a choice. If this were true and the love a parent has for a child were not a choice, then my wife and I wouldn’t have had to welcome 12 foster placements into our home in the matter of 4 months. If this were true then nobody would have ever heard the name Kaylee Anthony.
Another example that has been plastered every where is that romantic love is not a choice. My wife and I have been married for 7 years. In fact, we just had our anniversary, which was delayed due to the aforementioned foster placement. As I reflect on the last 7 years of marriage (+4 years of dating) there is one truth that stands out: Our marriage is strong. It is strong not because the chemicals in my brain compel me to love her. It is strong not because the chemicals in her brain compel her to love me. Our marriage is strong because we wake up everyday and make the conscious decision to put each other’s needs above our needs. We make the effort to sacrifice and submit our wants and desires for the betterment of both each other and our marriage. We make the decision every day to love each other, and for that reason our capacity to love is greater now than it was 7 years ago, but our marriage grows deeper and tighter bonds every day.
If romantic love (and who we choose to love) were not a choice then there would be no domestic assault cases tying up our court system. There would be no spousal abuse. There would be no Ashley Madison leaks, and Cuba Gooding never would have played OJ Simpson in American Crime Story.
Another hole in the theory that love is not a choice is the very fact that we have a justice system. This system is based on the premise that people are responsible for their own actions, and serves to seek civil or criminal indemnification for acts that are less than loving. If we are not responsible for acts of love or hate, then how can Timothy McVeigh, James Holmes, or any other hate-filled people be held accountable for their chosen actions.
I said early on that the only way to debunk this idea is to show the opposite as true. Well, how do we respond as Christians? Here’s a few truths about my faith that help me:
- Love each other. Period. An anonymous author once wrote a book detailing the life of Jesus. Most people identify him as the Apostle John, but that hasn’t been proven. As such, his book is known as “The Book of John”. In chapter 13, Jesus is chilling with his crew right before he gets arrested, tried, beat, humiliated, crucified, stabbed with a spear, and buried. He says:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
There you have it. Jesus gives us a suggestion to love those each other so long as we don’t feel insulted or hangry. Wait, is that not what it said? My Bad. It says he gave us the command to love each other. He didn’t qualify that statement by saying ‘love those people who like your statuses and agree with you on Facebook’ either. He just said ‘love each other’.
- Show restraint. It is a very difficult thing for me to keep my mouth shut. In fact, it’s the very reason that I started writing this blog; to prevent myself from getting into heated discussions on Facebook. It’s a struggle of mine to not let my pride get in the way, but it’s difficult when someone takes ignorant and cheap shots at something that I hold very dearly. There always seems to be a swell of righteous anger that make me feel compelled to respond (but I have a choice here too). I have to remember that although some people may land some of these cheap shots, they’re not actually directed at me. Here’s something else Jesus said in John 15:
If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.
So there you have it. When someone calls me a bigot/ignorant because I say that love is a choice and that marriage is so much more than our society’s new definition of it, or that gender is more than just what you wear or what bathroom you use, Jesus predicted it all. When I say these things, I will be hated. I will be called names. I will be pressured to change my mind. But I will not. It is so important though to show restraint in how, and most importantly, why I respond. These comments made towards me are not about me; They are about Christ. Luckily though, he’s a big boy and can take the hits, so I don’t have to hit back.
Love is a choice. Choose it like it’s your job…’cause it kind of is.