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Is loving God a feeling, an emotion, or a choice?

The greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind" (Luke10:27; Mark 12:30; Matthew 22:37). God commands His people to love Him with all their hearts and serve Him alone throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1; Joshua 23:11). But is it possible to command love? What can we do to force ourselves to love someone?

Because love is commanded, it must be within our power to love in Christ. As a result, love is a choice we make. Yes, feelings are frequently associated with love, but emotion is not the foundation of love. We can choose to love in any situation, regardless of how we feel.

The Greek word agape, which means "benevolence, delight, preference, or good will," is used in reference to God. This is God's kind of love for us (Zephaniah 3:17; John 3:16). "We love because He first loved us," says First John 4:19. We can love as God does because He is love and we were created in His image (1 John 4:16). He has imbued our hearts with the ability to love. He then demonstrates what true love looks like to teach us how to love (John 15:13).

It all starts with a decision to love God. It's a deliberate arrangement of our feelings (Colossians 3:2). We can't truly love God until we understand who He is. Even faith in God (Ephesians 2:8–9) is a gift from Him. God gives us His Holy Spirit when we accept His gift of eternal life through Christ (Luke 11:13; 1 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit of God begins to produce God's characteristics in a believing heart, the first of which is love (Galatians 5:22). God gives us the ability to love Him as He deserves (1 John 4:7).

We begin to love the characteristics that define God as we gain knowledge and understanding of who He is, such as wisdom, truth, righteousness, and purity (Psalm 11:7; 90:12; Hebrews 1:9; 1 Timothy 6:11). And we start to find the polar opposites of those characteristics repulsive (Proverbs 8:13; Psalm 97:10). Spending time with God makes our hearts yearn for holiness, and we can only find fulfilment in more of Him because He is the perfect embodiment of everything we desire. We can experience the pleasurable emotions of love by learning to worship Him "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). Love is not born of emotion; rather, it is born of our decision to love. "Flowers and bird songs do not make spring; but they do come with it," wrote A. W. Tozer.

Love of this world's sinful ways is one barrier to loving God. We can't serve two masters at the same time (Matthew 6:24), and we can't love God and the world at the same time. "Love neither the world nor anything in it." If someone loves the world, they do not love the Father" (1 John 2:15). Many Christians today should heed Paul's words to the Ephesian church: "You have abandoned the love you had at first" (Revelation 2:4). The call is for a deliberate return of affections to God alone.


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