People use the word “love” in various ways. Usually, it has something to do with how they feel about someone or something. “I love ice cream,” or “I love walks on the beach,” or “I love my boyfriend,” etc. Love has been so thoroughly linked to feeling, emotion and romance that people tend to perceive it as being beyond their control. “Falling” in love is like slipping on a banana peel. It just “happens” to us and there is nothing we can do about it.
There is a higher form of love. Although it may involve experiencing certain emotions, it is not, in and of itself, an emotion. This higher form of love is a choice. It is an act of the will. It does not “just happen.” It must be consciously chosen. It must be chosen even when the feelings connected with it are unpleasant or undesirable. Feelings cannot guide this kind of love. It transcends feelings.
To really love someone is to will the highest good for that person regardless of one’s feelings toward that person. This is why Jesus commands us to love our enemies. He is calling us to the higher form of love that is not guided by emotion. What good is it to only love your friends? Even the worst people can do that because they are using the lowest form of “love” which is based on feelings rather than choice. Anyone can fall in and out of love while riding the waves of emotion. Higher love (godly love) demands that we make a choice and stick to it despite our feelings.
I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said, “There is a reason Jesus told us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies. It is because they tend to be one in the same.” When pressed for an answer to the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” These two commandments sum up all the rest of God’s laws. Following this standard cannot be accomplished through the guidance of emotion. Love is a choice, whether it is a choice to love God or to love our neighbors. Feelings are secondary and must not derail true love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” not “Like your enemies.”
To love another is to will the highest possible good for that person. God is the highest possible good. Therefore, to really love someone is to desire that they become intimately connected to and redeemed by God, the highest possible good. Emotions are not the bottom line. Desiring that people find their way to the highest possible good is the bottom line. That is godly love.
Think about a person that you find the most emotionally difficult to love. When you decide that you want the highest possible good for that person despite your feelings towards that person, then you are on the path of higher love. When your will takes over for your emotions, then your words and actions can reflect authentic, godly love. Look at a crucifix and you will see the highest good. God is love. The choice is ours.