“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings”
~(Jeremiah 17:9-10 NKJV)~
This question came up for me in prayer today. If we, as Christians, are not supposed to live our lives around or make decisions based on emotions, then how do we explain God’s desire for us to love Him and to love one another? Isn’t love an emotion? Isn’t that what we have all been taught? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines love in the following terms:
1 a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates> b : an assurance of affection <give her my love>
2 : warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>
3 a :
the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration <baseball was his first love
> b (1) :
a beloved person : darling
—often used as a term of endearment (2) British
—used as an informal term of address
4 a : unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for others b : a person’s adoration of God.
Surprisingly, they mention God, but they do not go more in depth as to explain God’s definitions of love. I recently learned more about two types of love in a Beth Moore Bible Study at church. Two terms that I hadn’t really heard much before came up in our discussion about God’s Unfailing Love. The term ‘agape’, which seems to have been prevalent in church discussions and in the Christian community, means to esteem or to love, indicating the direction of will, and finding joy in loving something or someone. It is much deeper than simply loving someone by sharing a common interest or even a few common interests with them. The latter is referred to as ‘phileo’ love. In Beth’s study, she asks several questions about how we think about God. These are all indicators of whether or not our love for Him is agapao or agape, or phileo. It’s a very interesting study and one that, if you are so inclined, you should undertake.
Interestingly, one of my big problems in life has been understanding and recognizing the difference between the true love that originates with God and the love which is not necessarily love at all, but infatuation or simply preoccupation. I have only recently begun to understand the concept of love as it relates to God (which relates to everything else) and in doing so, have understood also that what I’ve had in my life wasn’t necessarily what I should have wanted, but I didn’t know any better at the time. I spent years thinking that love meant having to be something I didn’t want to be in order to fit into man’s idea of what a woman’s life should look like. Being married doesn’t necessarily mean that you are walking in love. You may be helping one another achieve a similar goal, but if the basis of those goals isn’t Christ, then you are likely to fail and in time, place the blame on one another for not being good enough or supportive enough. This is not what God wants for us.
When I married my husband, we were both out of church and way out of contact with God. I was convinced for years that God would never accept me again after my years of acting like a moron. Luckily, God still loves morons. I did many stupid things, much of which stopped after I married my now ex-husband. But the stupidest thing I did was to leave God out when it was clear that He was blessing me. For years I enjoyed promotion at work, money, and all of the things a person could want. I had a husband who seemed to love me and a beautiful daughter, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough because when you leave God out of it all, there will always be that emptiness that cannot be filled. A life without God leaves an empty space in your heart greater than anything on Earth can satisfy.
When I started to make changes, it didn’t occur to me that God was operating in me and that He was helping me to find Him again. He kept guiding me and I kept moving, but I never acknowledged His presence until one day when I was sitting in my house waiting for my husband to get home from work. For a time, I had been doing everything in my power to stay away from my husband because we just weren’t getting along. I was so stressed that I just couldn’t deal with being there with him any longer. I felt like I was falling and he certainly was not providing a loving, supportive net for me to fall into. At the moment when I broke and said, “God, I need you,” He was there. At the moment when I decided it was time not to fall, but to jump out of that life and into what God had for me, He provided the net. And here I am. After much pain and a life filled with what I had only thought was love, I am blessed with the honor of having the highest love of all. He is the love that I had needed for so long and the love that I didn’t feel I deserved. But when I stopped listening to myself and everyone else and let myself hear his voice again, He said to me, “I will always love you, my child. No matter what.”
So, back to the question at hand. Is love an emotion, or is it simply a mislabeled duty? It isn’t just a material thing that can be bought or sold and it isn’t meant to do harm to others. God commands us to love Him above all others and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. To love God is to know absolute glory and to accept the unfathomable power of His word. And so it appears that more than anything, love is a soul-quality that God wants us to proudly display as we walk with one another to be by His side.
…and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
~Deuteronomy 13:2-4 (New International Version, ©2010)~