Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
We tend to think of love as an emotion or a feeling. Love carries with it a full range of meanings, from a strong but general liking—as in I love that song, that restaurant, that place, to a deep, passionate, self-sacrificing love.
There is brotherly or sisterly love and parental love—motherly or fatherly love. There is the hot fire of erotic love and the slow, long burn of a lifetime companion love. Many a sit-com and romantic comedy has been made of the silly things we do to acquire love, keep love, or express love. Many a drama and epic film has been grounded in the challenges of unequal, inexpressible, or unmentionable, or self-sacrificing love. The setting and scenarios change, but the theme is always the same: people will do almost anything on account of love.
What a complicated topic! How many love songs have you heard on radio already today? There are thousands. People love these songs and themes. A man looked up from his hospital bed and said to his wife: “You’ve always been with me when I have had trouble. When I lost my shirt in a poor investment you were there. When I had the car accident you were with me. I got fired and you were there. I’ve come to the conclusion, that you’re bad luck.” Tina Turner in her hit song “What’s love got to do with it” says that love is nothing more than a second-hand emotion.
Love in action
Is love primarily a feeling? Most people talk about love as if it were a feeling. But that’s only half the story. Love is much stronger than emotional feeling. And it certainly is not a second-hand emotion. Jesus is calling us to action—not feelings. The Greek word Jesus uses for love is agapao; it means to seek the best for another with no thought of what you might receive in return. The love Jesus speaks about is seeking the best for another, even when we don’t want to, even when they don’t deserve and yes—even when they might not appreciate it. Probably that kind of love is best modelled in a parents love for a child.
When the Apostle Paul describes love in the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13, he doesn’t talk about feelings, but rather actions of patience, kindness, trust, perseverance and control of temper. The essence of love is not what we feel but what we do.
Jesus goes on to give a further description of love when he says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” The preposition ‘as’ here does not mean ‘as well’. In other words Jesus is not saying I love you, so you should love each other. But the word ‘as’ here carries with it the meaning ‘in like manner’. He is telling his disciples to love each other in the same manner in which he loved them.
Jesus love for his disciples was sacrificial love. This kind of love is measured by what it cost us rather than what we receive. Jesus does not say we have to always have good feelings about each other, or even to necessarily like each other, but he did say, we need to love each other. When we put aside our feelings and likes and dislikes and seek the best for each other in true Christian love, we will make an impact upon those around us. When they see love acted out in our relationship, their lives will be impacted for the gospel.
It is clear that we aren’t always going to like everyone we come in contact with, and loving them doesn’t mean that we have to agree with what they say or support all of their choices.
(To be continued in What’s Love Got to do With It? – Part 2)