I Say that I Love You
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. 1 John 5:3
When I met my wife, it was love at first sight. Or at least it was what I understood love to be. Perhaps a better way to put it is, I loved how she made me feel. Love was an impulse – an emotional response. I did nice things for her because I naturally felt that I wanted to do those things. Emotional impulsiveness though, doesn’t carry a marriage very far. It’s simply not sustainable. Eventually, I just drifted back to doing what I wanted because again, my behavior was driven not by authentic love for my wife, but by my nature to follow my appetite. Following my impulsive nature eventually led me to drug use, when I didn’t consider my wife’s feelings at all.
In recovery now, I’ve had to learn that love isn’t simply an impulsive emotion. Love does involve emotion, but if I rely only on how I feel, I’ll always eventually do whatever I want to do, which rarely appears loving to my wife. In recovery, I’ve had to learn that if I do truly love my wife, it is a feeling, but it’s also a choice and an action. If I say I love her, I must act like it. Instead of asking myself, What do I want to do? I’ve had to learn to ask, How would this affect my wife? It does my wife little good to say I love her and then go out and use drugs. If I truly love her, I must live like it.
Though it doesn’t involve romantic love, John described this same principle in today’s passage. Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God above all else (Matthew 22:37). John explained that to love God is to keep his commandments.
Growing up, I knew Jesus’ teaching. But I understood love to be an emotional impulse and I simply didn’t feel a tremendous emotional attachment to God. So, I never really understood what it meant to love God. I suspect I’m not alone here. When Jesus tells us to love God, a lot of us may be a little lost as to what that means.
Now, in recovery, I’ve realized that God has saved me from myself, so I do honestly feel love for him. That emotion though, isn’t all that love is. If I say that I love God, then I must daily make some effort to obey his commands. I must abandon myself, live rightly, and love my neighbors. If I simply live according to my feelings, I’ll always follow me. True love though, is choosing to live for the good of those we claim to love.