What Christians get wrong about love

mountainfamily

Throughout my participation in Campus Crusade for Christ, I heard this message countless times in sermons, bible studies, and prayer groups: There is no such thing as real love outside of Jesus.

I was new to Christianity then. It still had this shiny, new toy appeal to it. So I swallowed that line without thinking about it too critically. But this was also the time when Dad’s cancer began to return with increasing aggression, and started adding severe limitations to his life: he could no longer run, lift weights, or play golf – all activities that he loved.

I imagine this also put a great deal of strain on my parents’ marriage. At the same time, it also highlighted the strength of their commitment to each other. Imagine that: my non-Christian parents demonstrating gritty, at times intensely unflattering, but ultimately genuine, gut-wrenching real love.

“We promised ‘for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,’ and we meant it,” is what they told me.

You only had to spend a day, or maybe even an hour, in my house to see just how much they meant it.lovebirds

In the final weeks of Dad’s life, Mom slept on a reclining chair at his bedside, despite her dire need for a hip replacement (which she postponed in order to continue caring for him). She decided to delay receiving her PhD by a couple months so she could be a full-time caregiver, even though she’d been studying furiously all summer. That deep, unwavering love enabled her to help empty his colostomy bag, change bandages, and wake up in the graveyard hours of the night to give him his pain medication.

You simply cannot look at that devotion and say it isn’t real because Jesus isn’t in the center of it. You just can’t. I think back to those semesters I was active in Cru and feel so ashamed by my sheep-like acceptance of that falsehood. I did not think to challenge the people who said those things. I did not ask them to show me where in the Bible it said that non-Christians don’t experience real love. I just smiled, nodded, and went on with life.

If it’s true that God is good – the creator of all good things – maybe it stands to reason that romantic love and satisfying marriages are included in that package. If all good things in this world are the mark of God’s handiwork, one need not be Christian or religious in any form to enjoy them.

When I think about my parents, I think of how they set a high bar for my own upcoming marriage (in T-minus 66 days, not that I’m counting or anything). I realize more than ever how fleeting feelings can be, and how dangerous and unrealistic it is to rely on a “spark” to sustain you every day.

There will certainly be no sparks or fireworks if I end up in my mom’s place someday, caring for Joshua in his last days of hospice care (God forbid). I will have to rely on far deeper things to get through each day: Commitment. Devotion. Fulfilling my promises, knowing my spouse would do the same for me.

For people to insist that kind of love is exclusive to people of a certain religion is offensive as it is untrue.

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About Beth Caplin

Just an author, blogger, and editor working hard so my cats can have a better life.
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13 Responses to What Christians get wrong about love

  1. Pingback: When Christians suck at loving people (because sometimes we do that) | Sarahbeth Caplin

  2. Caroline M says:

    It’s an evangelical thing, but I hear it outside of strictly evangelical circles from time to time. A guest priest at my Episcopal church (not exactly known for being fundamentalist) gave a horrific sermon in which he said that no other religion thinks God is love, that Islam in particular would never say this, and that love can only come from belief in Jesus. He may be an anomaly in my denomination, but it’s out there.

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  3. Doug Daniel says:

    “It must be an evangelical thing.”

    Coming out of an evangelical/fundamentalist background, I would strongly agree that there are a number of things assumed in evangelical culture that need to be questioned. And this is one of them.

    “There is no such thing as real love outside of Jesus” has got to be one of the most asinine things I have ever heard. It would be far more correct to say that God is the creator and source of the human ability to love, and that that ability, whatever the professed creed, is a clear sign that we are made in God’s image. Otherwise, the statement smacks of the “all-or-nothing, black-and-white” stance so many evangelicals take in relating to those outside the faith. The world is more complicated than many evangelicals think.

    I am sorry your father passed away, but I am glad you saw the sort of committed love that everyone should aspire to.

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  4. Patty Brenner says:

    Your parents have shown you the kind of love it takes to be in a committed relationship. You were blessed to have their example.:-)

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  5. Am I Thirty? says:

    That’s so beautiful. And it’s so wonderful that you got to grow up seeing parents who truly loved one another.

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  6. Katie B says:

    Hi sarabeth!
    I think it is so inspiring that you are seeking out faith for yourself instead of just taking others at their word. Love that! My only encouragement to you is that you seek the Bible for truth in all things. We as humans have imperfect morals and as Christians, we are trusting that God divinely spoke scripture by the Holy Spirit. It is our only reliable source of truth in a chaotic world. I can speak from experience that once you step away from Scripture it can be a very slippery slope into other beliefs. I’m not saying I disagree with your post, but just wanted to offer up some encouragement as you seek out your own beliefs about things! Hope all is well! Katie

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    • Bri says:

      So much control and gaslighting masquerading as concern. This is a perfect example of the poisonous way of thinking that I’m so glad I have left.

      The Bible is our only reliable source of truth? How can a collection of ancient texts possibly be a more reliable source than our lived experiences? Sarabeth could see from the relationship of two of the people closest to her that what she’d been taught about love was a lie. It’s absolutely ludicrous to say that she should pay more attention to the assertions made about love in a book than what she can see right in front of her with her very eyes.

      I spent twenty years thinking that if what I saw and heard and lived didn’t line up with what I read, then I must be crazy, because what I read couldn’t be wrong. But I wasn’t crazy. I was just being lied to.

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  7. Love this. It is so true. The love your parents had for one another is truly beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Katie Cunning says:

    I very much agree, but I feel compelled to say that I was not taught, neither by my parents nor Church, that there is no real love outside of Jesus. I have heard that before from different denominations, but it doesn’t feel right to me so I don’t believe it. I think the love your mom showed your dad is truly remarkable. Take care, Beth.

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  9. nakularora says:

    So true, I totally agree to you. The basic definition of what love is goes against it being for only one particular person/thing/place etc. Love is a beautiful state of being.. 🙂

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