Google is confused about love. Is love a feeling or not? I did an image search and found both answers! So what is it? When I love someone, I definitely feel something. But I also know that those feelings can go away when that person is being difficult (not that I am ever difficult…). It would be easy in those moments to say that the love has faded because the feeling has faded. And yet in those moments I know that I haven’t just stopped loving them.
Years ago I heard the following quote and it helped me greatly in understanding love. See what you think:
“The difference between an opinion and a conviction is that while you hold on to an opinion, a conviction holds on to you.” – Ravi Zacharias
Is love an opinion or a conviction? A feeling or an action? Let’s find out.
On Sunday we talked about 1st Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter. As I mentioned last week, it is one of the most famous chapters in the Bible. It is very sought after, apparently because people are searching for the true meaning of love. Just what does 1st Corinthians say that makes it the Bible passage of choice for weddings? Here’s the most famous part:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
I think we would be hard-pressed to find many people who are able to love at this high level, consistently, simply based on their feelings. Our feelings are like our opinions, changing constantly. Up and down, hot and cold. He loves me, he loves me not. And we rip off the metaphorical flower petals in bushels.
It requires a significant decision, a choice, to actively sustain a conviction of love for another person. After worship on Sunday I had a great conversation with one person who told me the story of a family that was ripped apart by brokenness. She was involved in their lives, and looking back on the situation, she regretted that the family didn’t get serious professional counseling. I didn’t talk about counseling in the sermon, and I should have. It is not romantic to say “my relationship is broken and needs counseling.” Not that counseling is a magic balm to fix all unhealthy relationships, but it can be wonderful and is needed in so many difficult relationships where the feelings seem gone. Love takes work. That goes for any marriage, and it goes for the church too.
What I find so interesting is that 1st Corinthians 13 was not originally written for wedding ceremonies. Paul wrote it primarily for the church. Sure you need to think about your love for your spouse and your family. You may be allowing yourself to confuse like (opinion) and love (conviction). You may need to set the bar much higher for yourself when it comes to how you think about and practice love. But that may also need to apply to your relationships with people in the church.
Remember that Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” In the church we should have a high degree of 1 Corinthians 13 agape love for one another. So who is the person that you really don’t like in the church? What will it mean for you to love them? What can you do this week to work on it?