Countless songs have been composed and hundreds of books have been written about love. It is ubiquitous as stadium-rock oldies play overhead in every elevator, restaurant and store in our society. Indeed, love is all around, or at least the idea of love.
But most people learn about love through trial and error alone. Our culture says it is all about feelings. Our very own English word (“love”) has a plethora of meanings, understood only within the context. Articulating that you love someone does not mean anything in and of itself. Much of what is called “love” today is simply extreme interest, desire, and infatuation. Infatuation is not, in itself, a bad thing, but confusing it with genuine love is, well, confusing.
Counter-culturally, genuine love does not have as much to do with feelings as it has to do with something else. Yes, love is actually what you do — not how you feel! When people tell me how much they “love” each other and then tell me how awfully they treat each other, I am not impressed.
But when I see people sacrificing for each other’s fulfillment and watch their feelings grow into a robust commitment, I see their understanding of love growing. Doing the right thing for someone is doing the loving thing. If you act only on your feelings, your chances of doing the right thing are minimal. When you are acting toward the actual welfare of the other person, you will always be acting in genuine love.
1 Peter 4:8 states clearly: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” If love is “above all,” shouldn’t we have some idea about what it actually is? Romantic love without God’s love is generally fragile and temporary.
Tim Durham, MEd, has been the director of Family Life Services (counseling, adoption, parentin, and prenatal education agency) since 1991.