There was a time when it was possible for men to have close male friends and women to have close female friends without the expectation of sex hanging over their heads. Somewhere along the way, we have reduced love to sexual intimacy. I have heard a number of politicians and public figures say that no one has the right to tell you who you can love. What they are saying is a half-truth with a hidden agenda. We are free to love anyone who is willing to receive our love. But what these people are really saying is, no one has the right to tell me who I can have sex with. That is a very different thing.
In our sex-crazed society, we have elevated sex as the only true expression of love. If I cannot have sex with a person, then I cannot truly love them. This is a logical fallacy and a dangerous one at that. For example, I can have deep love for my children, but it is totally unacceptable for me to have sex with them. My point is not that sex is not a part of expressing our love, but that sex is not the only way to express our love, or even the best way.
The Bible tells us that we are to love one another. It is one of the highest virtues of a godly life. In fact, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, he responded by pointing us to love.
Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:37-40
Later, Jesus told his disciples that love was to be the distinguishing feature of their lives. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35
Much later, Peter emphasized the importance for us to carry out Jesus’ command to love one another. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22
Love is so much broader and deeper than having sexual relations with a person. In fact, without genuine love, sexual relations becomes meaningless. The kind of love that Jesus called for is sacrificial and others-centered. It is being willing to give ourselves away for the good of the other person. Paul defined genuine love in 1 Corinthians 13.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
All of these qualities can be lived out in a relationship without sex being thrown into the mix. The Bible is very clear that God has placed boundaries around sexual intimacy for our good. Sexual intimacy was designed to be shared between a man and a woman, in the context on marriage. It serves the purpose of creating a bond between a man and a woman, within the context of pro-creation. Of course, sexual intimacy is not limited to having babies. It can, in the right context, create a strong emotional and spiritual bond.
When we dislodge sexual intimacy from the boundaries that God has set, we turn it into something far less that God intended. It becomes an insatiable appetite that begins to control us. Sex becomes an end in itself. We can see this in the proliferation of pornography and sexual abuse.
Loving another person, whether the same gender or not, is not ultimately about sex. We can deeply love others without sex being in the equation at all. Genuine love is about sharing life to the fullest, within the boundaries that God has established. Just being friends is in fact one of the highest forms of love. It is freely sharing life, without expecting something in return.
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:9-13