To many of us, love is a feeling. It is something one feels towards someone or something. Love is emotional.
Given this definition of love, I would like to ask, “Can we control what we feel?” Thus, “Can we control who we love?”
Those who are well-versed in the Word of God know that the two greatest commandments involve love. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our soul and with all our mind. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt 22:36-39). On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets. If we have a faith that moves mountains, if we give all our money to the poor, if we are gifted with tremendous knowledge and understanding, yet have no love, it means nothing! With that said, we can all agree that love is very, very important. A Christian without love is like lemonade without lemon, I say. Just like lemon is the essence of a lemonade, love is the essence of Christians!
What most Christians seem to struggle with is loving our enemies and people we don’t even know (i.e. our neighbor). If indeed love is a feeling, then there’s not much we can do about it, is there? It is easy to love my mother, for instance, because she is so good to me. But when my enemy does evil to me, I feel anything BUT love. Does that make me a failed Christian? Thankfully, no.
The trick is to know that love is more than an emotion. It is a verb! It is something we do. The “feeling” can come after. If you feed your neighbor when he’s hungry, help him up when he’s down, or visit him when he’s sick, you are loving him. In turn, your neighbor might reciprocate with similar actions and the “feeling” of love might grow as a result. Think about it. When you fell in love, did it happen immediately after seeing the person or did some interactions occur where s/he was being nice to you (opening door, buying flowers, making dinner, etc) and you THEN developed a “feeling” of love for him/her? We can see this in the Parable of the Good Samaritan as well (Luke 10:25-37). The person who had compassion on the man that was half dead on the street by picking him up, healing his wounds and taking care of him, that person was his neighbor, said Jesus. His actions were those of love.
Thinking of love as an act and not a feeling liberates us. This means we are in control. We cannot control our emotions directly, but by controlling what we do, we can then change how we feel. Then, loving your enemy becomes a bit easier. It simply means I will not repay evil for evil, but be kind regardless of what I feel. It means I do not have to let my circumstances or external conditions control me. My feelings don’t control my actions, but I control my feelings through my actions.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – 1 Cor 13:4-8, NKJV
Love is God (1 John 4:8). We know that God loves us because He shows us time and time again through his actions. As we let the Spirit of God reign in us more and more, we become more like Him, and carnal “feelings” do not hold us captive anymore (Rom 7:23-25).
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. – 2 Cor 3:17