Unpacking “Love Is Love”

This article is part of the Unpacking Culture series in which we examine a well-known axiom and weigh any true or positive aspects of it against any negative or misleading connotations of the phrase.

A Rallying Cry for a Movement

I started seeing the slogan “Love is love” pop up everywhere in 2014.

Pithy and practical, the slogan humanized the LGBTQ+ experience. It steadied all gospel discussions of homosexuality on common grace, not saving faith. No dying to self, renouncing sin, or battling the evil in our hearts or the world. “Love is love” declared that we are more alike than different, that feelings are authentic and therefore good, and that homosexual relationships should be valued and honored.

“Love is love” became a powerful rallying cry, and it produced a mandatory constituency in the gay rights movement: allies—that is, heterosexual people who provided legitimacy, visibility, and cover, making the LGBTQ+ movement almost look wholesome. “Love is love” proudly pronounced that the lover's authenticity determines the love's integrity. Who can judge love? it asked. The phrase seems innocuous and non-threatening. But inherent in its appearance was the deception that Eve met in the garden with Satan: Did God really say that love’s virtue is in the eyes of the beholder or that it is inherently good no matter the object?

Does God define love, or do I? Is God love, or are my feelings my God?1

It can’t be both.

Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age

Rosaria Butterfield

Bestselling author Rosaria Butterfield addresses 5 lies modern culture has embraced about sexuality and spirituality, using the word of God to help illuminate each topic. 

“Love is love” declares that love stands on its own with integrity, meaning, and grace. But the Bible doesn’t square with this. The Bible says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and “Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). In grammatical terms, “love” is a transitive verb. The integrity of “love” is found in its corresponding object. If you love what God loves, then love is a moral good. But if you love what God hates, love is a twisted sin. To suggest that love has integrity on its own terms is to render it an idol and wrench it from its moral anchor: the God of the Bible. Indeed, “Love is love” demonstrates the LGBTQ+ movement’s rejection of the biblical God for idolatrous lust.

“Love is love” exchanged compassion for the lost (knowing that people who live in the sin of homosexuality are dying in their sin and need God’s salvation and rescue) with a new definition of kindness (one that appeased sinful desires over God’s power to create new creatures whose progressive sanctification releases them from the bondage of sin). “Love is love” says you are fine as you are, and the only problem you have is the closed-minded Christians standing in the way of your political rights.

In all these ways, “Love is love” has had the social effect of normalizing what God calls abomination. “Love is love” is not a Christian slogan because it condemns people. Christians don’t throw people away; we know we are all born in Adam, loving something God hates. And we will fight this internal corruption—what the Bible understands as indwelling sin—until glory. But as we fight our sin, we grow in sanctification and live in the newness of life in Christ and the love of the visible church (Gal. 2:20).

“Love is love” became the motto of the gay marriage movement, a movement that, almost as soon as it hit the ground, rebranded itself from “gay marriage” to “marriage equality.” What’s in a slogan? A lot. “Gay marriage” signifies the entrance into uncharted territory, while “marriage equality” signifies a corrective shift, the righting of past wrongs, and the speedy sail to the “right side of history.” “Love is love” was the wind beneath the sails of a new anti-Christian age, the post-Obergefell world.

“Love is love” asks for empathy as it subtly redefines the institution of marriage. Empathy means standing in someone’s shoes, feeling their pain, and not rushing in to solve their problems. But people dying in sin need rescue. “Love is love” rejects this and instead asks you to jump in the lake and stand in the shoes of the drowning person. What kind of compassion is this? The Lord Jesus died for the sins of his people so that we could offer rescue, hope, and change.

“Love is love” says, “We’re all the same; we all have feelings of love and affection, and love is always good.” “Love is love” also has a grammatical thrust. “Love” is the subject; “is” is the linking verb; and “love” is the predicate adjective. The grammatical thrust anchors love’s morality in its self-referential meaning. But the Bible anchors love in the moral law of God. Why does this matter? Because “Love is love” rejects that anyone needs a gospel rescue. It rejects the grand story of creation, being made in the image of God, falling with the imputation of Adam’s sin, requiring the blood of Christ for rescue and ransom, and living in Christ as victors over sin and ambassadors of God’s call to all to repent and believe. The only relevance and place left for religion is the gutted faith of neo-orthodoxy that says Jesus is welcome to bless and affirm, but not to judge or to ransom.

Does God define love, or do I? Is God love, or are my feelings my God? It can’t be both.

Strategic Developments Made by “Love Is Love”

“Love is love” was strategically brilliant, encapsulating three necessary components for the LGBTQ+ movement to advance.

  1. “Love is love” redefined personhood and declared gay is good and immutable. “Love is love” captured the Freudian idea that “sexual orientation,” a 19th-century category invention, is stable, fixed, morally neutral, and determines who you are (not simply how you feel or how your sin nature has deceived you). However, the truth is that there is no such thing as an “LGBTQ+ person” because personhood is bound up with image-bearing a holy God in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Gen. 1:27), and LGBTQ+ is captive in the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph. 2:2–3). For those of you who want to evangelize “the LGBTQ+ community,” please know what you are saying. If God blesses your work, then there is no “LGBTQ+ community” because a saved person isn’t a slave to sin, either at the level of practice or in self-identity. I know. I was once lesbian, but God saved me, and in saving me, he plucked me out of the fire and brought me into the church. Born-again people die to sin, take up their cross, and follow Christ out of the gay bar. And we don’t go back.

  2. “Love is love” reevaluated the categories of sin, sickness, personal freedom, and liberty. Another Freudian idea embraced by the evangelical church today is that homosexuality is first a form of suffering—and that suffering can lead to sin, but it doesn’t start out that way. But this is a falsification of what Genesis 3 tells us about the fall of man. Adam’s sin was imputed to us as our own. We are responsible for our “original sin,” not victims of it. Because we love the darkness (John 3:19) and we love our sin, our job is to hate our sin without hating ourselves.

  3. “Love is love” produced reiterations of itself as slogans quickly replaced doctrine. “Love Wins” became a celebration of gay marriage’s legal victory in Obergefell vs. Hodges (2015), the Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage in all fifty states. Obergefell also redefined “harm” from material (job loss, etc.) to the subjective. The “Dignitary Harm Clause” demands that you “affirm” someone’s LGBTQ+ identity so as not to “harm” their dignity. Well, here’s a news flash: the gospel harms all of our sinful identities, including those that now have legal protection. The consequences for what it means to live as real Christians in the world are serious: to comply with this law, you will need to honor everyone’s pronouns of choice lest you not only be labeled a bigot but be prosecuted as one. When the civil magistrate doesn’t punish the wicked, it will eventually punish the righteous.

Finally, the relative ease with which “Love is love” slipped into the moral framework of our age exposed that the evangelical church was not in a fighting mood. It was busy with the mission of being a soft presence in the world and didn’t believe that the sheep needed protection from the wolves. It exerted its false and foolish confidence that no spiritual war rages in my sweet town and no enemies pursue.

Have you noticed that LGBTQ+ allies, who ten years ago wanted you to “leave consenting adults alone,” now defend the rights of “trans girls” to play sports and use the locker room of their choice? How quickly allies became groomers. And yet, as Christopher Rufo has pointed out, there is no such thing as a “trans child.”2 Has anyone reading this spoken or attended a school board meeting at your local government school lately? I have. And the only time the word “pervert” was used was against the Christians who spoke against transgender ideology. The goalposts have been moved, and even though God is not constrained by this, you are and I am. Christians need to know what time it is and deal honestly with the world in which we live.

Because the visible church is apparently slumbering, the slogan “Love is love” has allowed Satan to drag us to Babylon by the nose. It’s high time for a wake-up call.


  1. An excellent book on the subject is Kyle Borg’s What is Love? Pittsburgh, PA: Grassmarket Press, 2022.
  2. Christopher Rufo, “Trans Kids are the New Totem of the America Left,” Manhattan Institute, March 16, 2023. https://manhattan.institute/multimedia/christopher-rufo-theory-trans-kids-are-the-new-totem-of-the-american-left.

Rosaria Butterfield is the author of Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age.

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