Love is such a cliché word these days. I can love God, love my family, love my life, and so on. But I can also love shopping, cooking, and being extremely organized. In all honesty, the word “love” is seriously overused in our American culture today.
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The following are the top three definitions of “love” according to dictionary.com:
- a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person
- a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend
- sexual passion or desire
The Bible, on the other hand, uses the following definition:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
So what’s the difference? The dictionary described love as a feeling. It’s passionate and deep. It may even be sexual in nature. From the time we are young, we are taught this definition of love. Even my young daughters are beginning to learn about the “feeling” of love in their favorite Disney princess movies where the prince swoops in, they fall in love, and they live happily ever after.
Don’t get me wrong. Romance and passionate feelings certainly have their place, but to define love as nothing more than this will eventually lead to problems. It is a very self-centered view of love. It puts the focus on your own personal feelings of desire and happiness. How many times have relationships ended because one or both parties were no longer happy in their marriage? They no longer felt “in love” or maybe they no longer felt loved by their spouse.
All of this talk about feelings leads me to wonder if we’re even talking about love at all.
Love is more than a feeling…
The Bible describes love as something much more. Love is not what we feel inside; it is the way to choose to behave. It’s not enough to feel love…those feelings can come and go. Love is something we show; it involves action.
The Bible’s definition of love takes the focus off of our own feelings and puts the feelings and needs of others first…even when we don’t feel like it.
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe in the “feeling” of love. When I look at my family, I feel a love that is indescribable. This feeling, however, leads me to action. It’s what drove me to get out of bed at 3 AM to feed my newborn babies. It’s what keeps me going when my kids are tearing apart my house, and my husband will be home any minute hungry for dinner. I take care of my family because I love them.
I can tell my family I love them until I’m blue in the face, but in the end, it’s my behavior towards them that proves it.
Even then, I struggle. Am I really expected to show love to everyone? Even my enemies? Even when I’m tired? And even when I don’t feel loved by them?
The answer is yes.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:31-32
The same tenderness, patience, and self-control need to be shown to everyone in my life… not just my family. For me personally, that’s easier said than done. It’s hard enough to remember patience when my kids misbehave but do I also have to show patience with the driver who cut me off on the freeway? What about the person who says something offensive or spreads rumors about me behind my back?
Based on the world’s definition of love, I wouldn’t have to love anyone who hurt my feelings or made me feel bad about myself. I could walk away from my marriage or choose to not show love to anyone I didn’t feel like showing love to. The Bible dares us to try something a little different. It dares us to show love even when we don’t feel love… to everyone… no exceptions.
The reason, you ask? We show love to others because Christ first loved us. He loved us and even died for us when we were still lost in our sin. We had abandoned Him and were unfaithful, yet He chose to love us anyway. He is the very definition of love.
This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. – 1 John 4:10 (NLT)
Love is not an uncontrollable feeling; rather it’s something we choose to do.
*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.