February 14th was Valentine’s Day in the U.S. On this day, there are “I Love You” cups, pillows, and stuffed animals galore, and the restaurants are always packed with couples having romantic dinners. It can be a bit hard to escape thoughts of love on this day.
As Christians, love is central to who we are, what we are, and why we are. Jesus said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, by the love that you have for one another” (John 13:35). Jesus also said that the whole of the Law and prophets hangs upon the command to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-40). Ultimately, we, as Christians, are called to live a life of love modeled by Jesus in His Word.
Still, there is much confusion about what genuine love is.
Love does not mean agreement or even acceptance. Two people can disagree and be unwilling to accept something about the other and still love. For example, a person who lives self-destructively can expect those who love him or her to be unwilling to accept their choices.
In fact, genuine love compels us to not accept the choices of another that are self-destructive, either physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. To calmly accept a lifestyle that would be harmful to another is completely antithetical to love. Love is always shaped by truth. Truth without love can be harsh and counter-productive, but love without truth is not even possible.
Another misconception is that love is simply a feeling. It is not, although feelings are included. Love is not something that you fall in and out of, and it not just a grand romance.
Jesus CHOSE LOVE
Ultimately, love is a decision, a commitment to another person no matter what. We see this in Christ’s example. Even though He was deserted, denied, and falsely accused, Jesus chose love. He had the power to change all His circumstances, to avoid the cross, yet still, Jesus chose love. He committed to performing the actions that involved keeping the dictates of love.
1 Corinthians 13 reveals what those dictates are:
“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. Love never fails.”
There are no emotional feelings in this Biblical definition of love. Our feelings will follow, but we must first begin by choosing to love. The only way we can do that is if we first, love God. We must love Him enough to surrender our lives to Him, so that His love, true love, can flow through us to others. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).