It seems that much of evangelicalism today views love as a choice, a commitment, a decision of the will. This is to combat what is seen in the world. The world’s love is emotion driven and inconsistent, demonstrated in the ramped divorce rate in America. But is love truly just a choice? And I ask that question in a biblical way – is God’s love for us, and the love that He would have us love each other just a choice, or is it a feeling?
One of the main arguments pro “choice” is that you can’t command a feeling, but rather love is action. Some verses that convey that line of thought are:
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18)
“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15:16)
But why does God love us? Many say it is because He chose to love us, or He loves us because He chose us. But biblically you would have a hard time defending that view – for with Israel God says:
“The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)
Now before you say, “See – God CHOSE them!” don’t forget that God set His love on Israel and chose them BECAUSE He loved them and kept the oath which He swore.
It seems that there is more a duality – God sets His love on people because He loves them. God chooses because He keeps His oath.
And before you say you can’t be commanded to have a certain emotion (therefore say that love is not an emotion or feeling), remember that God actually does command our emotions: “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.” (Psalm 98:4)
“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.” (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)
I really think it is because we are not perfect that we much “chose” to love. If we were perfect, our love would flow out as an affection towards another, a feeling. And when our love has no feeling, we must repent and ask the Lord that He would grant that we would love as He loves.
Father, I far I am from Your example of what it truly is to love. You laid Your life down for those You loved. You cared so deeply for them that You were brought to tears. Forgive me for my lack of feeling, my lack of deep emotional love towards my neighbors, help me to love not because I have to, but as a natural outflow of my heart, a heart that has been renewed by Your Spirit. Be gracious Oh Lord, grant me this for the sake of Christ. Amen.