Is Love Just an Emotion… Or Is it More?
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2022 2 May
Is love just a feeling that comes and goes? People talk about falling in love and out of love. You may have experienced that yourself. When a relationship is going well, you’re confident that you love the other person. But when challenges like stress and conflict arise, your feelings of love diminish. So, is love an emotion with ups and downs like other feelings? Yes, it is. But love is much more than that, as well. God – the source of all love – loves you consistently, no matter what. By learning more about how God loves, you can discover how to give and receive love in all situations.
Is Love an Emotion?: Love According to the World
Our world celebrates the emotion of love and mourns the loss of it, yet also offers no hope for holding onto love. According to the world, love is a source of pleasure for people when they are lucky enough to experience it, and love is a source of pain for people when their circumstances change and they no longer feel loved. Love, from a worldly perspective, depends on circumstances over which people don’t have much control. Either others love them, or not. Either they feel in love with others, or they don’t. Just like happiness, love is a feeling that relies on being in good situations. The world says that you should savor love while you’re feeling it, but also that there’s nothing you can do when feelings of love go. If someone has fallen out of love with you, or you have fallen out of love with someone, you’re out of luck.
Is Love an Emotion?: Love According to the Bible
The Bible reveals that love is more than an emotion. Love, the Bible says, is an action. In relationships with God, people can act with love at all times, regardless of whether or not they’re feeling the emotion of love at a particular time. God empowers people to love because love is vitally important. According to the Bible, God values love above all else. 1 Corinthians 13:13 proclaims: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Why is love so important to God? At his core, God is love! 1 John 4:8 declares: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” A few verses later, 1 John 4:16 says: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” You can rely on God to help you put love into action because, if you choose to live in love, God will send his love into your soul. That will empower you to experience being truly loved, and to share that love with others.
How to Put the Emotion of Love into Action
Don’t stop at simply feeling love; instead, make it your goal to put love into action. In John 15:9-10, Jesus urges you to take action with love by keeping his commands: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” All of Jesus’ commands are based in love. Because he loves us, Jesus teaches us to live in ways that God has designed to benefit us, so we can experience what is truly best.
Love is the first “fruit of the Spirit” mentioned in Galatians 5:22. By asking the Holy Spirit to renew your mind day by day, you’ll experience the power you need to put love into action regularly. 1 John 3:1 celebrates the fact that God has made the loving choice to make us his children: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!...”. Later in that same book, in verses 16 through 18, the apostle John urges us to follow God’s example by taking action with love to help others: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
But how can you act in love when you’re not feeling love? In my book Wake Up to Wonder, I share a story about how my perspective on love changed at a prayer retreat. The retreat leader challenged all participants to say “I love you” to the people sitting next to us and see what happened next. I didn’t know the woman seated beside me, and hadn’t even said hello or made eye contact with her yet. The thought of expressing love for someone I’d just met made me feel uncomfortable and anxious. But suddenly she embraced me in a spontaneous bear hug and told me she loved me. After hesitating, I returned her embrace and said, “I love you too.” Then something wonderful happened: a warm feeling of love washed over me. By deciding to take action with love before I felt love, I ended up feeling love, despite previously thinking that wasn’t possible.
You can experience the same phenomenon. If you decide to approach every person you meet with love, God will give you feelings of love for them – even for strangers, or people whose actions or attitudes you don’t like. One simple way to motivate yourself to do that is to remember that God made every human being in his image. Simply because of that, every single person on earth is worthy of love. Indeed, God does love everyone – even people whose sin has separated them far from him. John 3:16 describes how God’s love compelled him to offer salvation to everyone through Jesus Christ: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” When you’re interacting with someone, you can ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus your mind on the truth that he or she is a beloved soul, just like you are. Seeing someone from a soul-to-soul perspective can help you connect with others with love, no matter what differences exist between you.
You can always rely on God’s love to help you take action – and when you do so, you’ll notice the wonder of God working through your life. As Psalm 136:3-4 says, “Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever, to him who alone does great wonders, his love endures forever.” God will empower you to keep what Jesus says in Luke 10:27 are the greatest commandments: “… ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Is love an emotion? It is, but it’s also more than that. God – the source of all love – designed love to be an action as well as a feeling. You can choose to act with love in all situations, no matter how you feel. So, you never have to worry about falling out of love. When your loving feelings disappear, you can decide to act in loving ways, and God will help you do so. God’s love flows through your life when you put love into action. By choosing to love through your actions, you’ll experience feelings of love, because your actions will connect you with God’s pure and unlimited love.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/kieferpix
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.