Saturday, November 22, 2008

Words to Live By: Love

love, noun.
  1. a strong affection for another
  2. a warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion
  3. an unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another
  4. Biblical: the passion of God for human beings
  5. Personal: your obedience to God's commandments toward others.
God is love.
-1 John 4:8

Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.
-1 John 2:5

Where love is, there is God also.
-Leo Tolstoy

Whoso loves believes the impossible.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What is love to you? Is it feeling? Or is it an action? The idea of love is one of the greatest themes of Christianity. Christians are told that God is love, that love is what put Jesus on the cross, and that believers are supposed to love their neighbors as themselves. This call to love often means instant guilt for those who take it seriously. The truth is, people pressure themselves too much. And they misunderstand Scripture.

As the Bible presents it, love is not a feeling. Love is a commitment to a course of action that may result in feelings, but isn't dependent on feelings. The kind of love God calls his people to isn't primarily a matter of feeling a certain way toward others, it is a matter of treating people as God commands. God doesn't tell you that you are responsible for producing feelings towards people. God tells you that his love flows through your biblical actions towards others.

Feelings change; they aren't stable, and they usually don't last. Feelings will come, but they follow obedience. You become loving by doing loving things. You become forgiving by forgiving, not by having feelings of forgiveness. You act patiently and a supernatural patience enters your life. Love is the same way. Action first, feeling second.

So here's something for you to think about. If you had a choice between having all your friends "feel good" about you but with the knowledge that their feelings could change, or having all your friends obey Scripture in their treatment of you regardless of their feelings, which would you choose? Probably the latter, right. It would mean that your friends would always forgive you, always encourage you, always be generous with you, and, even if they should come one day to view you as an enemy, they would have to bless you because Scripture commands that you bless your enemies.

God, let your love run its full course in me. Grand me the grace to act lovingly without requiring the feelings of love first. I yearn to love as you love and so complete your work on earth.

I challenge you, begin treating people in your life according to Scripture regardless of feelings. The Bible says that an approach like this will allow love to "run its full course." This is important, for, as Paul says, "Nothing matters except faith working by love."

Words to live by, Bethany House 2004

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