I Will Always Love You…Until I Fall Out of Love.

Posted on February 12, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , |

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What is love? Open up a Danielle Steel book, listen to one of Whitney Houston’s songs (too soon?), or watch any romantic film and love always looks the same. It is a powerful, uncontrollable, consuming, sensual, wonderful emotion. Many of us hopeless romantics (i.e. women) swoon to this concept of love. But is that really all love is? Or has the world, through Dove, Pro-Flowers, Hallmark, and Hollywood, commercialized and distorted love?

If love is just an impassioned emotion, what happens when the emotion is gone? If the feeling of ‘love’ is the basis for a relationship, what foundation still exists once the emotion no longer meets our ‘needs’? By defining love as an emotion, we grant ourselves permission to act without reason (or with a poor one), usually having sex or shacking up because the movies tell us that’s what people ‘in love’ do. Likewise, we also grant ourselves permission to act in other ways when the emotion is gone. Usually by seeking ‘love’ elsewhere via divorce or an affair. Sometimes people simply quit. Ever heard someone say, “we just fell out of love?”

If love isn’t just an emotion, what else is it? I think it’s a choice, a way we choose to live. When the Jewish teachers asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he answered ‘love’ – love God, love others as yourself (Mark 12:28-34). Specifically, he quotes the Shema I mentioned last week. God actually gives us some insight as to what love looks like in this commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5).

Heart, soul, and strength each imply that love has different elements to it (in some text ‘mind’ is also included because English doesn’t have an equivalent word). The Hebrew word for heart, lebab, shows us love involves our inner-self, mind and will.  The ‘soul’ or nephesh involves our passion and emotion (maybe closest to how the world views love). And finally, the ‘strength’ relates to the might of our love or outward demonstration – how we show the others we ‘love’ something or someone. Sounds like the biblical definition of love is a lot more complete than than the world’s.

Jesus told us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-48). Not something that flows naturally for most. Paul told husbands to love their wives by giving themselves up for them as Christ gave himself up for the church (Eph 5:25). I don’t think Jesus ‘fell in love’ with the cross. And then there’s the classic wedding verse: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor 13:4-7). Call me crazy, but maybe Paul had to write it out for us because we don’t naturally treat those we ‘love’ this way.

Love is a choice and a way we commit our lives to someone. It’s much bigger than an emotion. For me, that makes love more romantic and fulfilling than anything Shakespeare or Carrie Bradshaw could distort. Biblical love sustains because it is not founded on our emotions, which are bound to season (anyone who says otherwise hasn’t been with their partner long enough). It is complete because it isn’t centered on “me” (selfishness) or even the other person (idolatry); it’s centered on God and how He has called us to love.

So, perhaps Valentine’s Day is the perfect commercialized way to celebrate a completely commercialized concept of love. While the world’s view of love won’t last too much longer than the obligatory rose, a love based on your heart, soul, and strength will see you through the other 365 days this year (it’s a leap year…and yes, honey, you still owe me a gift).


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2 Responses to “I Will Always Love You…Until I Fall Out of Love.”

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wow…this is really good! what an awesome way to think of love, as “bigger then an emotion”

Nicely put.

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