Saturday, September 03, 2011

Is that Love?

Where did August go?

Playing catch up from being gone so long in July.
Disappearing to the mountains for almost a week for refreshment.
Dropping our son off at college.
Flying into Hurricane territory with a crazy amount of peace to start a new and significant phase of training in Boston.

That is where August went.

In the midst of all that something got said to me three different times. All three times it really got my attention and I could not figure out why until this morning. Dave and I are in the process of starting a new home group with another couple. In preparation for that we are reading a book called: Love Walked Among Us by Paul Miller. Reading this book, this morning, helped me to see what I was sorting out.

Here are the words that were spoken to me. "I know love is not a feeling. Love is an action."

I do not believe this is true. I believe that another pendulum swing has happened. It is fair to think that our culture has preached a message that says love is a feeling. Human "wisdom" has reduced love to a feeling. When the feelings stop then people believe that love has ended. In response to one half truth another has been created. Love is an action. Is that all love is?

If love is not a feeling and love is an action than isn't love very legalistic? Couldn't you come up with the to do list of actions that are loving and then you do them and define yourself as loving. You can even use the bible to come up with the to do list. That picture starts to look like a Pharisee to me. Obedient actions that include nothing else is not love.

Two things come to mind that I believe are true about love. Jesus is love. Jesus did not love us with parts of himself. Jesus loves us with his mind, his will, his emotions and his strength or actions. I believe that the transformation process in us is to take us from people who do not know how to love to others to people who love like Jesus. I believe that is why Jesus called Luke 10:27 the greatest commandment.

(Jesus)"He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

Here is where I see simply taking loving actions as being wise rather than legalistic. I have been called by God to do things that I did not want to do. Rather than compassion, concern or care for the other person I was fearful, selfish or prideful. I have asked God to help me to be able to simply do what I was being asked to do. God did help me and then in the process an understanding or a change in me did come through obedient surrender. In other words some things you just can't understand until you experience them with a teachable spirit. But there is so much more going on there than just doing a loving act. It's not actually the action itself that is love. It's coming to understand God and care about others more than myself that is love.

So I think the next time someone says to me that love is an action wanting me to see the wisdom of that expression... I will have to say please don't reduce love to just action. I think Love is more.


Mike Messerli said...

You need a clever retort because you know it will happen again.

Unknown said...

Agreed. Thank you so much for posting this! Cheryl

Robin said...

I like what you said. I think some of the most meaningful time we can have with someone who is grieving is when we are just being with them, asking nothing of them, just being present. Maybe that is why it is called BEing in love instead of doing in love.
Robin Oren

Ann said...

Cheri, thanks for a such a thought provoking post! Forgive me for such a long response, but this was very interesting to review what scripture really says about love and our understanding of it!! You know I love this stuff!! If I can add some thoughts.....

I think this is a matter of what is meant by feelings (desire to do God's will vs that human warm, emotional glow of affection) and what we mean by love, for example, the difference in phileo vs agape. Phileo based on our human feelings, affection for others, is conditional, but agape, God's unconditional love, based on a person's value in His sight is expressed in our behavior (actions) toward others, simply put, extending grace, showing outgoing concern or good-will, even if and when we don't "feel" it. I am sure that in pure agape (God love) there is no distinction between action and feeling, but we will struggle to experience agape love until we have glorified bodies.

I agree that we cannot minimize agape by defining it simply as action or feeling. The question is, when we don't feel that desire to love, that concern for another above the self, do we do nothing or do we act in a manner reflective of how Christ would anyway? I am sure you would agree we do the action anyway and pray for the desire.

1 Cor 13: 4-7 defines how we are to express agape love to others. God doesn't say do this only if you feel it. Obviously to be internalized, the action must be accompanied by desire to do it, not that pleasurable glow of affection, (phileo), but a true desire for the well-being of another person, as a child of God, which as we continue the sanctification process, the Holy Spirit provides as a gift of the Spirit.

Love can be known only from the actions it prompts. (1 John 3:16-18 NIV)
"This is how we know what love (agape) is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."

One last thought: actions are not synonymous with legalism. Legalism, as we know, is a strict literal adherence to rules and regulations in order to achieve salvation or obtain spiritual growth. Actions done in this frame of mind, as you intimate, appear to be righteous and spiritual, but will ultimately fail to accomplish God’s purposes because it is an outward performance instead of an inward change.

In true agape love, as you suggest, there is no distinction between action and feeling, but we are a work in progress, and part of the sanctification process is becoming more like He who loved us first. So until that day, I am sure you agree that we act in a grace filled manner, even when we don't feel gracious, for the purpose of bringing glory to God in all we do.

Brent said...

I haven't heard the phrase that love is an "action." I've always heard that love is a "choice." An act of the will to show love.

Where I think some people go to the extreme swings of the pendulum is when they ignore what you suggest is a hand-in-hand relationship love has with feelings.

See, I'm of the opinion that if you make the choice to love, then the feelings follow that choice. For example, when my girls were little and one would wake up in the wee hours crying, I'd be mad/tired/frustrated/whatever before I got to them. But, while walking down the hall and gathering my thoughts and thinking that they were blessings from God and I love them, etc. and I could go in and be compassionate and caring and soothing and all that...and then they'd smile and look at you with those big eyes with a bottle in their mouth and melt my heart. Which, in turn, made it easier to choose to love them the next time. See what I mean about hand-in-hand? The action and the feelings seem to me to fuel each other.

It's still that way. With my wife. Kids. Students. Friends. If I choose to allow the Spirit to exhibit fruit, then the feelings follow. If I choose to indulge the flesh, the negative feelings of that get fed, too. It's a two-way street.

So, I don't know if that muddies the water or echoes your thoughts, but that's my two cents. I do think that some folks don't talk about the emotional part of love because they focus on the choice WAY more than the feelings, though. And that's a shame. I see where you're coming from.

Good post, Cheri!