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Love is not a feeling

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By Femi Aribisala

Jesus gave us the eleventh commandment.  He says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).

Jesus is not prescribing here what we commonly call love.  Instead, he is insisting on the peculiar God kind of love.  As with all things that are of God, this love is impossible with man.  It is only possible with God.  This is because this love is the fruit of the Holy Spirit of God.  Paul says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” (Galatians 5:22).  Therefore, this love cannot be found in natural, carnal man.

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Agape love

However, what is impossible with man becomes possible when God gives us his Holy Spirit.  A man can only have what he has received.  Those who don’t know Christ and have not received the Holy Spirit cannot exhibit the love of God; the only true love.  This love cannot exist where the Holy Spirit is absent.

But if we have truly received the Holy Spirit, then we have received godly love and therefore, have love to give.  This is the revelation of scripture: “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5).

It is imperative for us to know the difference between this love of God and the love of man.  The love of man is based on our feelings.  We meet a man or a woman and “fall in love” with him or her.  But since this love is based on our feelings, it is temporal because our feelings can change and often do.

However, the love of God is not based on our feelings.  The love that God requires of us is a commandment.  Jesus says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.’  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:39).

Children of obedience

We don’t obey God’s commandments because we feel like it.  We obey because we are children of obedience.  Therefore, the love that God commends to us is not dependent on our feelings but on our obedience.  For this reason, God requires us to love everybody, even those we don’t like, and even those who are hateful.

Accordingly, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:43-44).  You can see here that Jesus completely ignores our feelings.  A man would not normally love his enemies.  But God is different:

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8).

Therefore, if we are to be the children of God, we must love the way God loves: “for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45).

For this reason, God said to Hosea: “Love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery.” (Hosea 3:1).  Natural man cannot and would not obey such commandment.  It can only be obeyed by a man who has been transformed by the Spirit of God.  This shows true love does not come from finding a perfect person, but from seeing an imperfect person perfectly.

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Because godly love is required in obedience to God, and because it is not based on our feelings, it is an everlasting love.  That is a fundamental character of the love of God.  God says: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3).  Since we cannot stop obeying God, we must not stop expressing the love of God.

Decision to love

The love that God commends to us then, is a decision.  We decide to love.  We choose to love.  We love out of obedience to God.  But even more fundamentally, we love because we are born of God and are now: “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4).

Thus, John says: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8).  Since God is love, whoever is born of God is born by love.  Whoever is born of God has received the love of God.

Template of love

Jesus says: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” (John 3:16).  This provides us with another template of the love of God.  God so loved; he gave.  This means if we have the love of God, we will give.  We give because we have received.  If we don’t give, then we don’t love.  But if we have received the love of God, then we love to give and give to love.  Jesus says: “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8).

Don’t be mistaken in presuming money is the be-all and end-all of giving.  Not at all.  As children of God, we give words of affirmation in appreciation, praise, commendation, encouragement and edification.  We also give acts of service, such as running errands, offering a lending hand, and helping and assisting others.

We also give our time by giving others our undivided attention, talking to them, listening to them, sharing with them and doing something with and for them.  We give gifts, such as handwritten letters, poems, scriptures or flowers.

We touch others with our hearts and prayers.  We also touch them by holding their hands, hugging, snuggling, or even kissing them.  Paul says: “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (2 Corinthians 13:12).

We don’t give because we want to be repaid.  Jesus says: “Do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return.” (Luke 6:35).  Nevertheless, there is a spiritual principle with regard to giving.  Givers never lack.  Givers only give what they receive.  But when they give, God ensures they are replenished bountifully.

Accordingly, Jesus says: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38).

Therefore, we give from a place or knowledge of abundance.  We give because we know we are a gift to others.  We give because we know we have something to give.  We give because we want to make someone’s life better.  We give because we have realized the joy of giving.

We give because we know that God, our Father, is well-pleased when we give: “Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16).


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