Love Is Not A Feeling

You’ve lost that loving feeling
Whoa that loving feeling
You’ve lost that loving feeling
Now it’s gone … gone … gone …

Anyone who’s watched the movie “Top Gun” would know this hit song by the Righteous Brothers, made even more famous by Tom Cruise’s character.  Back in the 80’s, I didn’t think too much nor too deeply about the significance or accuracy of these lyrics.  Having gone through a lot more, and also having grown scripturally and biblically, by God’s grace and leading, I now realise how inaccurate and wrong these lyrics are.

With an overemphasis on emotions and physical pleasure, our view and understanding of love has been grossly distorted, largely shaped by adolescent crushes and Hollywood depictions of what love is or is not.  This, however, cannot be further from the truth.  Given this erroneous perspective, we often hear of how couples fall madly in love* with each other, only to discover that they have fallen out of love … when that loving feeling is no longer present.  That marriages are breaking up with divorce rates rapidly rising is only proof that we have all bought into the big fat lie of the feeling of love.

Extend this a little to John 3:16 and we too have a self-absorbed, self-centred view of how much God loves the world, and in particular, me (who cares about you *GRIN*).  I used to think I was really lovable; that when God looks at me, He gets goosebumps all over, becomes all mushy and can’t help but love me!  After all, I’m quite a nice guy … really 🙂

One day, however, when I did a word study on ‘love’, I was surprised by what I found.  Nowhere did ‘agape’ (greek for love) connote nor in the least suggest ‘unconditional love’.  And what about having nice feelings about someone?  You guessed it … nothing about that too!  Instead, biblical love (and thus godly love) is an act of the will for the other’s well-being and good.  C.S. Lewis rightly writes, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

That makes total sense!  Think about it … how can a righteous God get mushy and sentimental over a sinner like me?  Why would He?  That would be totally inconsistent of Him.  In fact, when He sees the sin in me, He is utterly repulsed!  No way does a holy God get that loving feeling at all.  But because He has my well-being in mind and wants the best for me, He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for me.  This gracious act of salvation was based entirely on His divine will and decision to love me, and not on a whim or fancy based on a flutter in the heart which may be present one moment and gone the next.

In the same way, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, it doesn’t mean to buy them roses or whisper sweet-nothings in their ears.  It simply means to desire only good for them.  Notice that Jesus didn’t say to like them or that we need to feel love for them before we can do good to them.  That’s because love is clearly not a feeling.  It is a decision.

By way of another illustration, consider the wayward teenager whose actions and behaviour are far from likeable.  Yet, his mother, out of her love for him, refusing to give up, prays and desires only the best for him.  Or the obnoxious seven year old whose temper tantrums would drive anyone up the wall and around the bend.  Yet, her parents, in loving her, patiently and firmly deals with her outbursts for her eventual good.  I could give you a lot more examples, but I think the point has been made.  If love was solely based on an emotional feel-good trigger, there would be little hope for too many of us.  No, matured love is clearly an act of will, whether we like it (or the person) or not.

Let me say this again … love is not a feeling; it is an act of will.  For too long, we have been deceived to think and believe otherwise.  As a result, love has degenerated into a carnal pursuit of self-satisfaction and self-gratification, sadly, at the expense of others.  How far we have strayed and perverted biblical love, replacing it with shallow sentimentalism.  For those of us who declare that God is Love, surely we have not bought into the same lie?  Or have we?

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we 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 4:7-11


* “The falling in love phenomena is the call of one’s longing to belong, to cathect, but the object is instinctually chosen according to our ideals, dreams and etc., although one may not realize it.” Read more …

3 thoughts on “Love Is Not A Feeling

  1. Hey, I am writing a book targeting teens on the subject of feelings. Can we feel God? Can we feel God? Can we run our lives by feelings?

    -May I use parts of this article in it?

    Garrett Watkins

    1. Hi Garrett

      Happy to note that you found this article useful. I’ve no problems with you using it. Just a point to clarify: I am not ruling out emotions in relationships or in love. After all, God has emotions and He made us with emotions too. The caution is against swinging to an extreme where feelings dominate our decision making process.

      One request: would you be able to send me a copy of your book when it’s ready? Just for keeps … I’m way over in Singapore 🙂

      Blessings! And Blessed Christmas to you!

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