Choosing to Love
In our world today, we seem to have bought-in to the false narrative that love is accidental (that we can’t control it), that it’s something that just happens to us. After all, “you love who you love” - right? In fact, even the way we speak, many times... the language we use... implies the perceived accidental nature of love.
We say, “I fell in love,” as if love is some kind of a ditch... an unavoidable pot-hole. It’s like I’m walking along one day and - wham! - I fell in love. I couldn’t help myself.
But the truth is, biblically speaking, that’s not love. It is a word that starts with “L” (lust)... but it’s not love.
Love doesn’t just accidentally happen. Love - true love, is a choice, and it represents a deep and abiding commitment. A covenant. That’s why we take marriage vows. And that kind of love may not be as “romantic” as a Hallmark movie or Cinderella/Prince Charming fairy tale kinda love... but it’s way more realistic.
Did you hear Jesus’ words in our scripture lesson a few moments ago? “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching...” To love through obedience is a covenantal relationship. Jesus was basically echoing the Law of Moses that we heard in our first lesson this morning: “I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commandments, decrees and laws; then... the Lord will bless you.” In order to love God, you and I are called to follow his teachings... and that means we have to follow-through... we have to do something.
In order to truly show love (to anyone), you have to be willing to do something. Love must me expressed by our actions. And anytime we express action... we’re making a choice.
You and I choose whether or not to love God. He won’t force you to love him. We can thumb our nose at God and go a totally different way. We can go our own way, and make a mess of things (do you remember the story of Abraham and Sarah?) We can even ruin our lives if we choose to do so (I deal with people who’ve ruined their lives pretty much every day). God still won’t force you or me to love him... because he knows true love can’t be forced. It has to be chosen.
This same principle is true in our relationships: You & I can choose to love others, but God won’t force you to love anyone. Of course, ideally, our love for others should grow out of our relationship with God. It’s been said that if you want to be closer to God, be closer to people... and there’s certainly truth in that statement. But if you really want to love others, love God first... because it’s even more meaningful, and transformational, to love God - and to choose to love others in light of God’s love for us.
Of course, even when you and I do choose to love someone, it doesn’t mean everything will become perfect...
A husband and wife had been married for 60 years and had no secrets except for one: The woman kept in her closet a box that she forbid her husband from ever opening. But when she was on her deathbed—and with her blessing—he opened the box and found a crocheted doll and $95,000 in cash.
The wife explained: “My mother told me that the secret to a happy marriage was to never argue... instead, I should focus my energy, and crochet a doll.”
Her husband was touched. Only one doll was in the box—that meant she’d been angry with him only once in 60 years. “But what about all this money?” he asked.
“Oh,” she said, “that’s the money I made from selling the dolls.”
Love doesn’t equal perfection...
And to love someone doesn’t even mean that a person will accept your love. It doesn’t mean they’ll love you back... I mean, think about it: Jesus said we should even love our “enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you.” Your enemies don’t love you. Those who persecute you don’t love you. Yet God’s call to love remains...
Which tells us something very important... YOU are the only person who can stop you from loving someone else — because love is a choice you make.
Love is more than attraction or some chemical reaction in our brains... it’s more than an emotion or feeling... or sentimentality, like so many seem to assert in our culture... in movies... and songs.
If that’s all love is... is love dead when the emotion is gone? No - not at all - because love is an action and a behavior. And we’re called to love others, because God (in Christ) first loved us.
1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Implied within these words, is choice! “Let us love” could just as well read, “Let us choose to love one another.”
Jesus said, (John 13:34-35) “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.” IF implies choice.
Over and over again in the Bible, God commands us to love each other! Did you hear that? It’s a command, a calling, an order, a directive... and you can’t command an emotion. If I told you right now, “Be sad!” you couldn’t be sad on cue. Just like an actor, you can fake it, but you’re not wired for your emotions to change on command.
If love were just an emotion, then God wouldn’t command us to do it. Love is an action. It can produce emotion (emotion is a side effect of love), but true love is an action.
The Bible says, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions” (1 John 3:18). We can talk a good act: “I love people.” But do we really love them?
Our love is revealed in how we act towards others.
Think about the ways, in your own life, that you display love in the way your treat others... your friends... your co-workers... your neighbors... even strangers?
How does choosing to love others affect the way you treat them, and how we feel about them?
God’s Word tells us that God has shown us his love in this... that while we were still in our sin, Christ gave his life for us. Christ was willing to show us, through obedience, what love looks like. And he calls us to do the same.