In grappling with love, it is easy to default to feelings, expressions of assurance, and physical touch as primary indicators. For many, these elements provide a basis for comprehending love. However, as found in 1 Corinthians 13, the Biblical perspective on love transcends this human-centric perspective. The Bible presents love not as an emotional state but as a series of selfless actions.
1 Corinthians 13 presents love from the standpoint of action. The scripture states, “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV). The essence of love here is defined not by feelings but by tangible, observable actions. Jesus exemplifies this through his sacrificial love, laying down his life for his friends (John 15:13, NIV). In this, we see actions superseding feelings as the embodiment of love.
Yet, Biblical love goes beyond actions. It also includes a state of mind or motivation that prompts those actions. During his crucifixion, Jesus asked his Father to forgive his executioners, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV). His actions reveal love driven by a state of forgiveness and compassion. Thus, love transcends mere effort to encompass a compassionate and forgiving mindset.
But does this mean that love is purely about actions and motivations? Jesus’ admonishment of the Pharisees helps us navigate this question. While the Pharisees meticulously adhered to the law, Jesus criticized their hypocrisy, saying, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27, NIV). The Pharisees’ deeds were not an expression of love for God but a shallow adherence to the law without the right motivation.
This perspective posits that we cannot reduce love to an ‘either-or’ situation between actions and feelings. Words of assurance, while important, are meaningless if they stem from a heart full of malice. It is not enough to merely speak of love or perform loving acts; these actions and words must spring from a heart genuinely filled with love. Galatians 5:19-21 actively highlights the importance of motives behind actions, warning against the heresies that arise from a sinful heart.
A proper understanding of love considers an individual’s actions and the motivations behind those actions. This view challenges us to evaluate love not only by the deeds or words of others but also by understanding their intentions. If the activities align with their pure motives, and their desire is not to cause harm, this aligns with the biblical account of love.
The parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) reveals another dimension to understanding love by actively demonstrating the impartiality of God’s love. God’s love is not conditional or partial; it is the same for all, regardless of when or how they come to Him. This impartiality might not elicit feelings of being loved, but it is a pure form of love.
From this perspective, it becomes clear that basing love solely on feelings can be misleading. Instead, embracing the biblical account of love means aligning with the truth presented in the Holy Bible: “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV), and the motives behind these actions must be pure. Consequently, biblical love is not merely about feelings, words, or actions alone but a harmonious combination of pure motives and actions.
In conclusion, the biblical account of love is a holistic understanding that combines actions, words, and motives. It presents a paradigm where love is more than a mere emotional state or expressed assurances; it is a selfless act driven by pure motives. Understanding and embracing this perspective challenges us to redefine our concept of love from a biblical viewpoint. Only then can we genuinely appreciate and embody the true essence of love as God intended?