Love, More Than A Feeling

Matthew writes about the effects our modern consumerist culture has on our view of love. He argues that we've reduced it to merely a response to a feeling and, instead, encourages us to love by choice, not by response.

It goes without saying that globalisation and social media have changed the world as we known it.

The world has become a marketplace and, everyday we are bombarded with advertisements and promotions. It seems as if everything revolves around making the next buck.

We have more choices and more options than any other time in human history. If there is something we want, chances are some company, somewhere in the world can provide it for us. More than that, if a company’s product does not completely satisfy our needs, we won’t hesitate to find an alternative.

In this consumerist culture, getting what we want, when we want it and how we want it is no longer a hope, but an expectation. An expectation that breeds selfishness and entitlement.

Social media is no help either. Algorithms are designed that you only see the content you’re interested in. Your opinion, your interests are elevated and everything else is but an echo chamber.

Slowly but surely, a world bounded only by your interests is formed and we start to believe that the rest of the world should revolve around our happiness and satisfaction too.

A counterfeit love

I worry that consumerism, self-centeredness and entitlement has degraded our relationships, and contaminated the way we view love itself.

Our view of love has become transactional. If we like a person, if a person conjures up that emotion of ‘love’ within us, we respond with loving actions. If someone doesn’t evoke this feeling, we simply look for other ‘alternatives’. Love has been reduced to a response, a reaction to a feeling.

“More relationships have failed because too many view love selfishly. […]. Love isn’t self-serving. Nor is it an emotion. The choice to act and respond through love will, at times, go directly against what you’re feeling” (RestoredProdigal).

To love without liking

I don’t know about you, but for a long time the commandment “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44) frustrated and discouraged me. I couldn’t work out how I was supposed to ‘love’ my enemy if I didn’t ‘like’ them. I thought that it wasn’t really ‘love’ if the characteristic emotional wasn’t felt with it.

But surely the truest form is love is when we choose to show it, even when we don’t feel or desire it?

Love has been reduced to a response, a reaction to a feeling.

There are things that people may do that are evil, sinful, or even just annoying. But when these act as a barrier to loving people, we prevent the incredible transformation that can occur.

In every human heart, I think there is a longing to be fully known and fully loved. A desire to know that, despite what has been done in the past, or will be done in the future, that there is something in that person that is cherished and deserving of love.

The Greek word for love in Matthew 5:44 is defined as a “discriminating affection that involves choice and selection”.

So, when we see the sin, the evil, the annoyance and choose to act as if we love them anyway, we really are ‘loving’ our neighbour. Arguable, we are showing love in its most beautiful form.

“Love in this second sense isn’t merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by will and deliberately strengthen by habit” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis).

Choosing an unreactive love

I think the Kingdom love is more than just feelings. It is rooted in choice and is deeper and far more encompassing than the reactive love we are sold in this world.

“To love your neighbour is to see your neighbour. To see somebody, really to see somebody, you have to love somebody” (The Remarkable Ordinary, Frederick Buechner).

It is the type of that love unburdens shame and pretense. When people no longer feel that they have to ‘perform’ to receive our love, they are truly free to find themselves, to discover all He has made them to be.

It cultivates unity, breeds commitment and has the potential to bring heaven that much closer to earth. And it will change us too:

“The worldy man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis).

Let’s show love to others inspite of their actions towards us and, most importantly, inspite of our ‘feelings’ towards them – unconditionally in the truest sense.

Let’s love, even when we don’t ‘like’ and let’s love by choice, not by response.

Matthew Thornton is studying at the University of Auckland, Matthew finds that writing is one of the prime ways he connects with and grows closer to God. He loves seeing the way in which God has wired everyone uniquely and finds immense fulfilment in seeing others discover who God is to them. He would love to hear from you: //

Photo: Kirstyn J. Paynter

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