Like faith, (in my previous post) love is an action verb. Love is celebrated and promoted as a feeling, but love’s proof is in its behavior, in its actions. We could even say (paraphrasing James) love without deeds is dead. Love without loving actions isn’t love at all. Jesus described love to His disciples in this way, saying,
“If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching.” and “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me.” (John 14:23 & 21)
Love is not a noun but what exactly is it? 1 John 4:10 explains it this way,
“This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Sending His Son is definitely an action, a really big one. So big all of human history is divided into before Jesus came and after Jesus came to earth. Jesus came here and showed us God’s love for us by His actions such as healing the sick, feeding the hungry, washing the disciples feet and His ultimate act of love, hanging on a cross, paying the price of our sin so we could be reconciled to a Holy God. John 15:13 confirms this as the greatest act of love saying,
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” And that’s exactly what Jesus did. He laid down His life for you and for me.
“The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.” (John 10:17-18)
So love is the sending a Savior, the sacrificing of an only Son, the laying down of one’s life for another person or for many people. 1 Corinthians 13:7 tells me some important actions that love is always busy doing.
“It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Protecting, trusting, hoping, persevering – love is a full time job for sure. I like how the Revised Standard translation expresses 1 Corinthians 13:7 in these words,
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Bearing, believing, hoping, enduring – love is definitely not a noun! Love is a word packed full of action! The Modern language translation of this same verse is even more descriptive of how love behaves saying,
“It (love) bears everything in silence, has unquenchable faith, hopes under all circumstances, endures without limit.”
Love, the feeling, would not be able to accomplish all the bearing, believing, hoping and enduring that love, the action verb, is called upon to do in order to accomplish love’s work in this world. Feelings are fleeting, changeable, unreliable companions at best, who can lead us easily away from where we were planning to go and away from the things love, as defined by its actions, is dictating that we do.
Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God first and foremost and to love others as ourselves. These were calls to action not calls for us to feel a certain way. Knowing this makes understanding Jesus’s words in Luke 6:27-31 easier.
“But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
When Jesus told them to love their enemies, He also told them how to do it. Do good to them, bless them, pray for them, turn the other cheek, give to others and treat them well. Jesus was talking about our actions towards our enemies, not our feelings towards them. Here again, we see love identified by its actions. There are so many things that love does. But there is one thing love does not do. Romans 13:10 tells us,
“Love does no harm to its neighbor.”
That says it all, doesn’t it? This simple but profound truth would work wonders in our lives if we put it into practice. Don’t harm other people – with words or deeds because that’s not love. Love builds bridges not barriers. Love reaches out, seeking connection not division. The isolation imposed by COVID restrictions has made it easier for us to become divided from those around us, from those we used to share our days with, our lives with, until we couldn’t anymore. Hopefully, we will let love tear down the walls isolation has built and put pathways in their place – pathways that will connect us once again to each other in an ever expanding network of community. Love can’t be lived out in isolation. Other people are needed in order to put love into practice. There is something else that Romans 13:10 tells us, the second part of that verse reads,
“Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
The Living Bible says, “Love does no wrong to anyone. That’s why it fully satisfies all of God’s requirements. It is the only law you need.”
Could it be if we obeyed God’s law of love, (doing no harm) we would also be obeying all the other laws? This would seem to be the case. Love is and does many things – but these words from Romans 13:10 show me clearly how I can identify true love –
“Love does no harm . . .”
sincerely, Grace Day