When I googled 'true love' I found that modern psychologists and relationship gurus are coming around to the Bible's way of thinking. I thought they'd say it was more of a feeling than a decision. But it seems that old idea is no longer what the experts believe.
So, people talk about falling in love, meaning it's something that just happens to us, a feeling that overwhelms us, over which we have no control. But the truth is....we do have control, if we want. As someone has said, 'the best way to think of love is a verb'. Feelings of love come and go. But we can control what we do with them when we have feelings of love; and we can control what we do when we don't have feelings of love.
True love is all about choices.
True love is a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present. It's a decision to do the other person good - to show them love, even if I don't have loving feelings for them at that moment, and even if they don't love me.
True love is love that is true to the person I've made a commitment to. As a married man, for instance, this would mean deciding not to act on feelings that may appear uninvited in my heart for another woman. Another woman may strongly attract me. But because it would destroy my marriage, true love says, 'although I have feelings for her, I am not going to act on those feelings'. True love is a committed, thoughtful decision.
That's why, in the Bible, 'love your neighbour' is a command from Jesus. It's something we do, not feel. Yet doing someone good is often followed closely by feelings of mutual love. And then what we do with those feelings is determined by the nature of our relationship to that person - what's appropriate and what's not.
In the Bible, one definition of love goes like this: 'This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.' 1 John 4:10.
As sinners, we are repulsive to God, not attractive. There is nothing lovable in us to attract us to him. We are his enemies. But he demonstrated his love for us by doing the only thing that could save us from the consequence of our sin, which is death in hell. He came to earth and sacrificed himself, suffering the punishment we deserved, by dying cursed on a cross in our place. By enduring God's curse on the cross instead of us, the Son of God was doing us good, even though he was angry at us for our sin, even though we didn't love him. That is true love - utterly selfless, utterly committed to the other person's good and well-being - even though they don't deserve it.
If you want to know more about God's true love for us, come along to St George's any Sunday at 10.30.a.m.
Pastor at St George's