At first, love might not strike you as a feeling that needs led. Especially in our “follow your heart” culture. It seems like you either feel love or you don’t. If you do then great! If not, well, you better start looking for it again.
But what if love could be chosen?
Love, like the rest of our emotions, can be cultivated and grown. It can also be starved or suffocated. Each of those options is a choice we get to make.
Love is a choice.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”John 15:13 ESV
That’s a choice – to give your life for someone else. The greatest expression of love is the greatest expression of love because it’s a choice.
Jesus chose to give himself for you because he loves you.
Choosing to love him back means choosing to show love to others:
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”John 15:12-14
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34-35
How do we choose to love?
Well, we can’t give what we don’t have. I suggest that before we can love others well we have to receive love from the source.
“Dear friends, let us practice loving each other, for love comes from God and those who are loving and kind show that they are the children of God, and that they are getting to know him better. But if a person isn’t loving and kind, it shows that he doesn’t know God—for God is love.”1 John 4:7-8
I know, that begs the question: how do we receive God’s love?
“We know how much God loves us because we have felt his love and because we believe him when he tells us that he loves us dearly. God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.”1 John 4:16
We believe him.
Guess what else is a choice? Faith.
We receive God’s amazing love for us by choosing to believe that it’s real; he is real, his love is real, and we can really feel it!
And, remember from last week’s post, we don’t ever have to be afraid that God will stop loving us and we don’t have to be afraid of God.
“For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow,or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.”Romans 8:38-39 TLB
“We need have no fear of someone who loves us perfectly; [God’s] perfect love for us eliminates all dread of what he might do to us. If we are afraid, it is for fear of what he might do to us and shows that we are not fully convinced that he really loves us. So you see, our love for him comes as a result of his loving us first.”1 John 4:16-19 ESV
Now, how do we love God back by showing love to others?
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”Colossians 3:12-14 NIV
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”Ephesians 4:2 NIV
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”Romans 12:10 NIV
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”1 Peter 4:8-10 NIV
So we’ve got lots of options for actions and attitudes we can choose to practice showing love.
Before I end this post I want to highlight one thing we can choose not to do in order to show love: hate.
“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”1 John 4:19-21 NIV
Part of believing that God loves you is also choosing to believe that he loves every other human he has created with the same ultimate sacrificing, never ending, perfect love. God wants us to apply these actions and attitudes of love even to our enemies. (Read more about this in the second half of my post “Implicaitons”.) Now, tell me we don’t need more of this in an election year….
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”Matthew 5:43-47 NIV
Those are Jesus’ words, by the way, and so are these:
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22:37-40 NIV
Valentine’s Day is over, but our opportunities to show real love are as continuous as the number people we encounter everyday. Who will you show love to today, and how will you do it?
Next week let’s talk about anger. Can we be angry and love at the same time?