As a one-time college debater, part-time blogger, and future law student, I am constantly on the watch for questions in need of an answer (or answers in need of a refutation). But when I decided to dive into the debate over the redefinition of marriage, I discovered that more is at stake than my ability to present sound evidence for my side.

More is at stake, too, than the effects of same-sex parenting and divorce on children, or the ways religious freedom will be muzzled if marriage is redefined. The core issue is love.

The definition of love itself has been called into question. Recently, a friend who works with teens in the school system gave me a scalding rebuke for posting about the results of the New Family Structures Study. She told me students in her class are bullied for feeling same-sex attractions, and if we would stop disseminating hatred and start loving others as Jesus did, these teens (as well as children raised in same-sex households) could have a well-adjusted life. Love, she insisted, all you need is love.

Love, of course, does not mean tolerating behavior that carries negative consequences; it means telling someone the truth. Documentation of the negative outcomes of homosexual behavior abounds. For instance, the mortality risk from the active homosexual lifestyle is, on average, double the risk from smoking cigarettes. Surely it is not unloving to tell a friend who smokes that he is shortening his life expectancy by 7-10 years. To say the same to a friend who lives as an active homosexual, however, is unacceptable.

True love is often tough love. Put another way, love is often unacceptable.

Jesus exhibited unacceptable love. He showed tough love to the Pharisees, calling them snakes and sepulchers for holding people to man-made regulations; he showed it to the woman at the well, looking her in the eye and naming her sins. I knew my friends definition of love as tolerance was skewed, but her words encouraged me to ask a critical question: Am I showing love according to Jesus definition?

Answering this question showed me a new dimension of Jesus love. As MARRI intern Sarah Robinson writes in a piece titled Tolerance vs. Love:

Ultimately, I wish to live my life in such a way that homosexuals and heterosexuals alike would see radical love emanating from me that ultimately would point them to the love of God. I may be accused of being intolerant, but may I never be accused of being unloving.

Jesus love tells us the truth about our sin, and then goes further. It is radical because it is not just tough love, but transforming love. The teens my friend sees at school each day need to hear that Jesus can set them free from all sexual attractions, addictions, and fears that are not part of His created design for men and women. He can make them a new creation!

As Sarah Robinson said, the change Christ has made in our lives should invite others to be changed. While our words may or may not win the soul of the culture, Christs love can win the soul of a person. And this, according to Proverbs 11:30 and James 5:20, is what matters most.