My husband recently taught a Wednesday night series at our church themed “Love is a Verb.”
Though the concept that love isn’t something you feel as much as something you do wasn’t necessarily new, it resonated in a powerful way!
From the time we’re young girls, many of us grow up imagining that Prince Charming will someday sweep in and whisk us into joyous happily-ever-after. And even though so many of us have no real-life examples of marital bliss to reference, we nurture a hope that for us, it will happen. That amazing, good-looking, romantic, sensitive guy will come along and be exactly what fills every lonely, broken, insecure piece of our longing-for-love soul.
Unfortunately, it’s super easy to fall in love. Just about anyone can do it! But staying in love takes work. And understanding that love is not a feeling, it’s a behavior, is what separates those who fifteen or twenty years down the road are fulfilled in their marriage from those whose relationships have fallen apart or are just existing.
So is it possible to be in a relationship for decades and still feel in love? Absolutely! As a matter of fact, the choice to love -- the understanding of love as an action instead of a feeling -- enriches and supercharges true love in a powerful way.
Whereas feelings come and go, fade and swell, and sometimes even die, choices and behaviors are completely in your control.
When you choose to love -- when you see love not as a feeling but as something you do -- love never dies. Love is as strong or as flimsy as you make it. You never “fall out of love” because love is your behavior; it’s your lifestyle.
I recently read Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. If you’re a reader, this is truly one of the most amazing books on marriage I’ve ever read! I read this book a month or so after my husband’s “Love Is A Verb” series, and the book’s concepts went right along with what God had already been revealing to my heart.
In the book, the author points out that a central theme of Christianity is reconciliation: Jesus was the Mediator who reconciled fallen humanity to God. That’s what Christianity is all about. And it’s also one of the reasons the marriage covenant is so powerful: Marriage in large part is about reconciliation. It’s about forgiveness and new beginnings and start-overs and second chances. In fact, this is one of the reasons God hates divorce so much, especially between Christians: It shatters the message of reconciliation our lives should be reflecting.
No one’s relationships should mirror so much the heart of the gospel message -- love, forgiveness, and reconciliation -- as does a Christian’s. So ideally, our marriages should be the most beautiful and most forgiving and most loving you’ll find on the planet. They are, after all, a picture of Jesus’ relationship with His Bride, the Church.
So what does all this have to do with love being a verb?
In this age of moral chaos, it’s crucial that we fight for our marriages. It’s vital we uphold the preservation of the family. It’s imperative that we live out the true definition of love.
We can say we love our husbands, our children, our church family, our neighbors, etc., etc., but the proof isn’t in our words or in the memes we share on social media.
Love is action.
Love is a verb.
Love is doing.
Love does not exist outside of our behavior.
How did Jesus love and forgive those who jeered at Him, spat on Him, and abused Him on the cross? Was He feeling all the warm fuzzies the whole time as they drove spikes through His hands and feet?
Of course not! Jesus was fully human, after all. The love Christ had toward those who hated Him wasn’t a happy, gooey feeling; it was a commitment. It was a choice.
True love encompasses so much more than just marriage, but because I love marriage so much, let me come at this from a husband-wife standpoint.
What do you do when you know you should love, but you don’t feel loving? When you know forgiveness is the only wholesome option, but you don’t feel forgiveness? Or when you know the Bible commands wives to treat their husbands respectfully, but you feel no respect for yours (Ephesians 5:33; 1 Peter 3:1)?
Is it hypocritical to do something, to be something, that you don’t feel?
I love this excerpt from Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs:
"Trusting and obeying God's Word because we love and reverence God never, ever makes us a hypocrite! When the alarm goes off in the morning, we get up, even when we don't feel like getting up. Because we do what we don't feel like doing, does that make us hypocrites? No, it is a sign we are responsible people. Showing respectful behavior when we don't 'feel respectful' is evidence of maturity, not hypocrisy."
The truth is, doing things we don’t feel like doing is part of being a mature adult. Only someone who is self-absorbed and immature never does things she doesn’t feel like doing. As growing Christians, we do what’s right because it’s what God’s called us to do, not because it’s the choice that brings the most pleasure and comfort to our flesh.
1 John 4:20 reminds us that we can’t say we love God but then hate our brother in Christ (which is what your husband is, by the way!). John 13:35 says that it’s by the love we have for our brothers and sisters that people will be able to tell we’re Christians.
If we don’t practice love as an action, people will know we aren’t so much Apostolic Christians as we claim we are. As James says, “If someone is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food and you tell them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things they need, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16).
Just as faith without works is dead, so love without action is fake and meaningless.
So let’s talk less about love; let’s insist less that we love people.
May we live out our love in our behavior and our actions instead.