THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXCERPT FROM Timothy, with wife Kathy, Keller's much anticipated new book The Meaning of Marriage, Facing the Complexities of Commitment With the Wisdom of God. I'm in the process of reading every word and highly recommend it for anyone interested in marriage, friendship and loving relationships of all kinds from a Biblical worldview. You will not be disappointed. The following passage concerns whether love is primarily an emotion or an action and runs counter to the culture teachings which have spawned a tsunami of divorces and broken families:
Nearly everyone thinks the Bible's directive to 'love your neighbor' is wise, right and good. But notice that it is a command, and emotions cannot be commanded. The Bible does not call us to like our neighbor, to have affection and warm feelings toward him or her. No, the call is to love your neighbor, and that must primarily mean displaying a set of behaviors.
The feeling of affection, of course is a natural part of love, and it can enable us to better perform the actions of love. We are never more satisfied and fulfilled than when affection and action are joined in us, when we are serving someone we delight in. Nevertheless, if we don't distinguish between feelings and actions, it can put huge barriers in the way of loving people.
One reason we need to make this distinction is because of the sheer inconsistency of our feelings. They are tied to complex physical, psychological and social factors. They wax and then wane, often in infuriating ways. Our emotions are not under our control but our actions are. Most of our likes and dislikes are neither sins nor virtues---no more than our tastes in food or music. What matters is what we do with them. If, as our culture encourages us, we go so far as to define love as 'liking'---if we only feel that actions of love are 'authentic' if there are strong feeling of love present---we will inevitably be bad friend and even more terrible family members and spouses.
It is a mistake to think that you must feel love to give it....
So if your definition of 'love' stresses affectionate feelings more than unselfish actions, you will cripple your ability to maintain and grow strong love relationships. On the other hand, if you stress the action of love over feeling, you enhance and establish the feeling. That is one of the secrets of living life, as well as marriage.
Plan to continue posting excerpts from Keller's book of great wisdom next Sunday. Happy New Year!