Anyone familiar with popular music of the ’80’s has heard the song “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” by Tina Turner. It has a certain lyric that has always captured my attention: “What’s love, but a second-hand emotion.” I never quite understood what this line is supposed to mean, but I’m assuming it’s a sarcastic or hopeless commentary on the singers lack of success at love. In a strictly worldly view I guess I can see how this attitude toward love could come about. But as a Christian father this is a totally skewed perception and I think it is the result of the popular culture view of love. The lyric is flawed from the very start, categorizing “love” as an emotion. Emotions are all about “me” and how I feel, actual love is about other people; it is selfless action.
What is Love?
As fathers, we have probably all felt that emotion of love, sometimes it is very overwhelming. But I think in our current western culture, “love” has been the victim of misunderstanding by being associated only with the EMOTION of love. After all, where does the emotion of love come from? Is it just our reaction to the way another person looks or acts? If love is based solely on the result of someone else’s actions or traits, then how could we possibly always love our children, especially when they are driving us crazy?
First and foremost, love is a choice and an action, this is the Christian love that the apostle Paul talks about in the Bible. The emotion or feeling of love is a result of choosing to love someone and then acting on it.
One of the best known and loved (no pun intended) Scripture passages about love is 1 Corinthians chapter 13, often known as the “Love Chapter”. Parts of this chapter are often read at weddings with the best intentions, albeit out of context. The so-called “Love Chapter” describes first and foremost how God loves His church, and in turn how God’s church should love others. Most of us are probably familiar with the command “Love your neighbor as yourself”, but could this be possible if it were just based on emotion? Self-focused emotional love could never accomplish the type of love God intends for us to have for others, including our children.
The type of love that Paul describes in 1 Cor 13 is the Greek word “agape”. Agape is not a passive love, agape is active, and if you look at the various words that describe love in this passage, they all require work. Unfortunately most of us think of the “amore” love (a feeling a great affection), where we sit back and meditate over how good love feels.
So the love that Paul describes in chapter 13 is active and he uses several descriptors of love to make that readily apparent. Love:
- Is patient
- Is kind
- Does not envy or boast
- Is not proud
- Does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking
- Is not easily angered
- Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Are any of these easy? Not at all. Ever tried to be patient with a toddler that is throwing a temper tantrum? Difficult stuff for just about any parent. We choose to love our children and work at being patient, selfless and all the other things listed above.
Here’s an experiment: The next time your child is really testing you, think about the list above. Think about how you are being patient, kind and selfless. Think about how you persevere through the difficult situation. Then when the particular incident is over, review how you feel. I will bet that after working on loving your child through that rough time, your feeling of love will deepen. The feeling of love we get is a result of the work we have done, sort of reward I guess.
Love is much more than it’s cracked up to be.
I write about the rather unexpected journey of fatherhood, please join me!