I Don’t Think It’s Love
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 2 Corinthians 8:8
I’ve used this analogy of our family dog before, but it’s too fitting for today’s passage not to share again. So, here goes.
My kids have a strong emotional attachment to the family dog. They truly love him, and they tell him so. I’m not there yet. I know – I’m a terrible person. I think he’s a nice dog. He’s smart, obedient, well-trained, loving, and very attached to us. When he dies, it will be a big emotional blow to my children. I’ll be sad for my kids, but I’m just not that emotionally attached to the dog.
Here’s the thing though. My dog thinks that I love him and I’m pretty sure he’d be shocked to learn that my kids feel love for him when I don’t. Why? Because I play with him. I take him swimming. I chase him around the house and when I’m in the kitchen, I always drop food for him. In his mind, I love him the most. He doesn’t understand the words “I love you”. He understands actions. So, in his mind, the one who does the most for him loves him the most, and he reciprocates that love.
We’re not all that different. We can’t feel other people’s emotions, so we’re convinced more by loving actions than we are by the words “I love you”. This is the principle that Paul taught in today’s passage. In it, Paul insisted that the Corinthians show their love by committing acts of grace, giving of their time, effort, and money to the work of the kingdom. They weren’t to simply tell others that they loved them. They were to show their love through their behavior. Love is a powerful emotion, but if it remains just an emotion, it’s incomplete. To be authentic, love must be an emotion that translates into action.
But I don’t feel like I love those around me. We won’t always feel love for our neighbors, but still, God asks us to act as though we love them. Often, in being obedient, we’ll find that God transforms our hearts as our emotions follow our behavior.
There will be those who try to take advantage of our Christian love by insisting that if we love them, we must do their will. That itself though, is a profoundly selfish, unloving action. When we love others, we desire what’s truly best for them, and then, through our own actions, we do what we can to bring that about.