Category Archives: Love

The Confused Champions of Love and Choice

Although it may involve all sorts of positive and negative feelings, love itself is not a feeling. Love is a choice; a decision. Love is an act of the will. However, we live in a world where people are guided primarily by impulse and feeling rather than by will and reason. Feelings tend to be rather fickle and impulses self-serving.

Our world (particularly since the so-called sexual revolution) has become saturated with the distorted thinking pattern sometimes referred to in psychological literature as “feelings are facts.” Consequently, the “facts of life” have become distorted along with the thinking processes. Therefore, it is prudent to maintain a healthy skepticism when words such as “love” or “choice” are used to champion any cause or movement having to do with the “facts of life,” as it were. The likelihood of distortion is quite high.

Can We Love?

“Light drives out darkness. Love drives out hate.”

Good.

First, one needs to personally know the Source of light and of love.

Then, one needs to understand what love is, and what love is not.

Love is willing the good of the other. Love is not a feeling. Love is an act of the will; a choice; a decision; often gut wrenching and difficult.

We can not love our neighbors without also loving our enemies, because they are often the same persons. Find a crucifix and really study it for a while. That’s the kind of love that drives out hate.

Can we “really” love each other? Or are we simply calling for an ineffectual, feel-good, sentimentality? Can we love our enemies? Not without the Source of light and of love. Not by our own power

“All You Need Is Love” or “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

“Why can’t we all just get along?” This is a common question. One might as well ask, “Why can’t we all just pick up musical instruments and play beautiful music together?” The answer to the later question is clear: “Because not all of us have been properly trained and practiced in the art of musical performance.” So it is with people’s ability to love.

In the story “The Music Man,” con man Harold Hill sells musical instruments to people with the promise of creating a wonderful band. He provides no musical instruction beyond telling people to “think Beethoven’s Minuet in G.” When pressured to actually direct the musical piece, what results from his “band” is a horrible sound with only the slightest resemblance to the Minuet in G.  There is certainly no display of excellence. Nor is there any ability to play other songs.

It is not enough to simply have a musical instrument and “think” about playing music. Musical excellence requires proper instruction and years of practice. Playing music with a group of musicians only works when everyone in the group understands the musical rules and has the proper musical skills. So it is with love in a marriage, a family, or an entire society.

Harold Hill’s “band” is similar to what results from telling people to “just love one another.” Saying “all you need is love” is like saying “all you need is a musical instrument and the passion to play it.” People need to be taught how to love. They need to learn and understand the “rules” of love and relationship. In other words, people need to learn and practice virtue.

Love is not a “feeling.” Love is an action. In order to perform an action with excellence, one requires skill and practice. Virtue is the skill of loving with excellence. Without virtue, all we have is feeling and emotion. One can “feel” very passionate about playing music. But, without the skill, one is not truly free to actually play the music. One can “feel” very passionate about love. But, without the skill to love (virtue), one is not actually free to love. In both cases, one becomes a slave to one’s passions. “Feelings” alone, as powerful as they may be, are not reliable guides to life and love.

An excellent musician is a “virtuoso.” The ability to love excellently is “virtue.”  Love is not “all we need.”  We must know how to love. Knowing how to love involves more than being led by emotions. Even the most passionate desire to love will lack excellence without virtue.

Learn more about the importance of virtue here and here.

This Is That Love

Out of all the religions, what makes authentic Christianity unique is that, from the beginning of time, God seeks us. It’s not about adopting a set of moral values and principles…it’s about knowing God, the person of Jesus Christ, intimately. So intimately, in fact, that an eternal, physical AND spiritual union between God and His creatures takes place.

You know that love that everyone yearns for in the deepest places of their hearts? This is it.

Fear

It is good when fear motivates us to jump away from a coiling snake or to wear our seat belts.  These are examples of God-given reflexes and reason.  It is not good when fear motivates us to sin.  Much sin is rooted in fear.  It stems from a lack of trust in God.  Our fears are exploited by the powers of darkness and used to tempt us away from love and toward sin.  I am reminded of the line from the classic movie Poltergeist, “It knows what scares you.”

Virtually any sin we can think of can be traced back to some fear.  Virtually any fear can result in some type of sin.

We Americans like to talk about rights and justice.  Seldom do we get to the heart of the matter.  When we violate God’s moral or natural laws we are usually motivated by fears which fuel our lack of trust in God.  We also like to use the word “love,” but we fail to understand the word.  We think love is simply another pleasant emotion instead of a courageous, selfless act of the will.

We are taught that courage is a virtue and that fear is a weakness.  So, instead of admitting that we have sinned because we are afraid, we mask our sins under the cover of “rights” and “justice.”  This makes us seem courageous, but often it is just like Adam and Eve hiding from God and wearing “fig leaves” to cover their shame.  So, the first step is to recognize sin for what it is and choose God’s love instead (even when it’s really, really hard).  Otherwise we remain stuck in the circular rationalization of our sins.

Next, we must ask ourselves what we are afraid of.  When we acknowledge our fears we are better able to see how they pave the way for sin.  Is our sin rooted in a fear of what we might miss out on (some pleasure, perhaps)?  Is it rooted in a fear of increased responsibility?  Is it a financial fear?  Is it a health related fear?  Whatever the fear, there is likely a lack of trust in God that accompanies it.  So, we choose our way instead of God’s way, and we sin.  We violate God’s moral or natural law.  We choose fear over love.

“God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Tim 1:7)  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love castes out fear; because fear has torment.  He that fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1John 4:18)

What are your fears?  You may have to dig deep to find some of them.  Can you choose God’s ways in the face of them?  Will you let perfect love cast them out?  Or will you remain crouched behind your right to do things your way?

Love

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.

Looking Up, Not Down

The moment I place myself “up here” and someone else “down here,” lower than me, I have denied my faith.  When I look upon any other human being with contempt, I have denied my faith.  Regardless of what another’s sins may be, I have my own to repent of.

I must look up to everyone from a lower position, because I must see Christ in them.  If I look down on them, I look down on Christ.  Pride destroys the soul.

I must judge behaviors, for I must know right from wrong in order to strive for holiness.  But I cannot judge souls.  Only God knows the hearts of people.  Only God judges the soul.

God does not raise us up by looking down on us.  He raises us by lowering himself and looking up at us with love.  This is what the Christian is called to do, because we are called to follow Christ.

Faith does not last.  In Heaven we won’t need faith, for we will see everything.  Hope does not last.  In Heaven we won’t need hope, for we will have arrived.  Only charitable love lasts forever, for God is love.  Faith, hope and love; the greatest of these is love.

I cannot look down on others from a genuine vantage point of faith and hope.  I can only look up to them in love.  Otherwise, my faith and my hope are phony imitations.