If You Love Me, Give Me Whatever I Want

When I was a child, my two sisters shared a bedroom. It was larger than mine, and I wanted it. On one occasion, while my parents were gone, I convinced my sisters to switch rooms with me. “If you really love me,” I said, “you will switch rooms with me.” So they did. We moved my furniture into their room and their furniture into my room. It lasted for a couple of hours until my parents got home.

Giving me whatever I want is a common juvenile definition of love. “If you love me, you will buy me that game. If you don’t buy me that game, you don’t love me.”

Thankfully, I no longer operate from this defective, juvenile, manipulative definition of love. Yet what I abandoned as juvenile, society is in the process of affirming. Society tells us to follow your heart, trust your feelings, and embrace whatever comes naturally. For society, with ever-increasing scope, love means doing whatever it is that you want and supporting others in whatever they want. Affirming such decisions is love, while having the gall to do otherwise is hate.

This definition of love is probably most pervasive in discussions regarding sexuality. Supporting someone who chooses to live a homosexual or transgender lifestyle is portrayed as a sign of love, whereas disagreeing with such a decision is perceived as hate. Or perhaps it’s someone who wants to leave a spouse because he “loves” someone else. How could you possibly encourage him not to follow his heart? Or maybe it’s the 19-year-old who wants to sleep with her boyfriend because she “loves” him.

Following your heart sounds sensible unless you know that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Over and over again, Scripture affirms the sentiment of Genesis 6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Jesus Himself declares, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23).

Rather than following your heart, embracing what comes naturally, or supporting people in whatever they want, Jesus defines love as obedience. “If you love Me,” Jesus said, “you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus affirms this definition of love twice more in John 14. John must have thought the definition quite important, as he repeated the connection between love and obedience in 1 John 2:3-5 and 2 John 6. Additionally, while it is common to think of 1 Corinthians 13 as offering a romantic definition of love, I think we often miss Paul’s declaration that love “does not rejoice in unrighteousness” (1 Corinthians 13:6). This declaration affirms that there is, in fact, such a thing as unrighteousness. And what’s more, if we rejoice in any such activity, it’s not love!

If love involves keeping God’s commandments, then it is not possible to love God by means of breaking one of His commandments. Likewise, it is not possible to love fellow human beings by breaking one of God’s commandments with them. Furthermore, it is not possible to love people by supporting them in breaking one of God’s commandments.

Jesus’ discussion of causing others to sin should give us serious pause—“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Those are sobering words. When we affirm any sort of behavior that violates God’s commandments, we are helping the next generation to sin. That’s not love.

Imagine your relief, if you were concerned about cancer, to hear the doctor say that there was nothing wrong with you. Now imagine that he told you this despite the scans that showed cancer throughout your body. On your death bed, as you finally have an opportunity to ask him why he told you what he did, he tells you quite plainly, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

As ridiculous as that sounds, we are tempted to tell people what they want to hear because we don’t want to hurt their feelings. We have traded a flawed definition of “nice” for the truth. And thus we commit spiritual malpractice.
If we want to do God’s will, we must live by and tell people the truth. Hard truth. Cancer-doctor truth. The truth as God defines it.

The question then, for any behavior we endorse, is not if it comes naturally or if it makes us feel good, but if it meets God’s righteous standards. We must give thorough attention to the teachings of Scripture in order to determine if a certain behavior meets God’s standards. And when it doesn’t, we must not help others to walk down that road.