Love Is a Choice

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Love is so much more than a feeling. You can love someone even when you do not feel it.

This past summer, at my son’s wedding, I found myself reminding him of the words my mother spoke to me at my wedding, and many times since: 

“Always remember that love is a choice.”  

The dictionary defines love as “a feeling of warm personal attachment or strong affection.”  But if love is primarily a feeling, then what happens when the feeling isn’t there? How do I love when I feel no affection? How do I love when all I feel is annoyed or angry? Or ambivalent... how do I love when I feel nothing at all? 

“Always remember that love is a choice.” 

My mom’s words are full of wisdom. Although it is often felt in the heart, love is primarily an act of the will. Nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than in the way God loves us. In the Old Testament, two Hebrew words describe God’s love for his people. The first Hebrew word for love, ahab, means: “to desire, to breathe after; to be inclined toward, to delight in.”  The Lord God delights in us and is inclined toward us. He desires–“breathes after”–us with affectionate (ahab) love. Although Ahab is an intense word, it’s only used a handful of times with regard to the Lord. There’s another richer, more powerful word that’s used repeatedly throughout Old Testament Scripture to describe God’s love for us: the Hebrew word, chesed.

Chesed speaks of a love that is firmly rooted in choice. It involves loyalty, steadfastness and commitment to a promise. It’s a love that doesn’t depend on the response or behavior of the receiver but rather on the steadfast character and commitment of the giver. Ahab has to do with feelings, whereas chesed implies a mind-set and mode of interaction based on unwavering loyalty to a commitment. 

“Always remember that love is a choice.” 

Understanding that love is primarily a choice has helped me countless times over the years. I can choose to love. I can choose to love my husband, even if he’s getting under my skin. I can choose to love my child, even if he’s seething with rebellion. I can choose to love my relative, even if she’s interfering and critical. I can choose to love my boss, even if she’s overbearing and unreasonable. I can choose to love my friend, even if she’s just stabbed me in the back. I choose to love God when I choose to act and respond to others with his kind of love. 

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)

Have you made the choice to love, even when you’ve not felt like it? How did you act on your choice? Or do you need more resolve and grace to make the choice to love in a tough situation? 

“Always remember that love is a choice."

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