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

The greatest commandment we are given in the Bible is to love God with all of our heart, mind, strength, and soul (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30). This command isn't just found in the New Testament but also throughout the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1; Joshua 23:11). Yet this commandment may be difficult to understand without a clearer understanding on what "love" means.

God’s Love for Us

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." —Romans 5:8

Throughout the Bible there are different Greek and Hebrew words used for different types of love. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the English language, we only have the word "love" for ALL the various types of love. God’s love is called agape (pronounced "ah-gahp-ay"), which is a Greek word for the kind of love that is unconditional, perfect, sacrificial, and constant (Zephaniah 3:17; John 3:16). Agape never changes, never weakens, and never stops; it is modeled for us by how God loves us (1 John 4:19). And God doesn't just model agape, He IS agape.

While we are fallen and broken people, unable to perfectly reflect God's example of love, we are still made in His image (Genesis 1:27). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to love others the same way Jesus does (John 15:13; 1 John 4:16).

Our Love for God

"We love because he first loved us." —1 John 4:19

We have access to the ability to truly love God but loving Him still starts with a decision. We must actively choose to prioritize Him (Colossians 3:2) and choose to set our desires on Him. The first step in this decision happens when we become Christians or choose to follow Christ and gain the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13; 1 Corinthians 6:19). The Holy Spirit is the One gives us the ability to understand love on a deeper level (Galatians 5:22).

Remember, agape love is also a sacrificial love. This type of love is not a feeling but a choice—a choice to act lovingly even if we don't "feel" like it. Feelings of emotional love may come along with it in time, but first we must choose to love God more than anything. We can develop affection for God as we grow in knowing Him better, but this kind of affection should not be the basis for our love of Him. Feelings come and go, but we can always make choices about what we act upon.

Roadblocks to Love

Even with the power of the Holy Spirit, there are still roadblocks that can trip us up on our faith journey.

The world. The world promotes pleasure of hedonistic or self-indulgent desires. We cannot love God with ALL our heart, soul, and mind and simultaneously give ALL our love to what the world loves (1 John 2:15). We either choose to love one completely or love the other (Matthew 6:24). When we choose to love God completely and be devoted to Him above all else, then we can truly experience love in a way the world could never pull off. One way we can keep God first is by asking, "Am I seeking God's glory in this? Does this express godly love?" for each decision we make—small or large (1 John 4:8; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Our minds. Each of us is a fallen human being (Romans 3:23). Our minds can lead us to rebel against God and doubt His love for us (2 Corinthians 10:5). We can overcome this roadblock choosing to turn back to God, asking for forgiveness and help (Jeremiah 29:13). Instead of doubting God's love for us, we need to trust that nothing could take away that unconditional, sacrificial agape love He has for us (Proverbs 3:5-7).

Reading about God in His love letter to us, the Bible, can help us understand Him better. In the Bible, we can discover centuries of examples of His faithfulness to those He loves. As our relationship with Him deepens, our love for Him will deepen more and more. We'll start to dislike the things He dislikes (Proverbs 8:13; Psalm 97:10) and cherish the things He cherishes, such as righteousness, purity, and gentleness (1 Timothy 6:11; Hebrews 1:9; Psalm 11:7). Growing in this understanding of God's character allows us to worship Him more fully (John 4:24) and see Him as worthy of all our love (Revelation 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:16).

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TL;DR

Jesus said that the greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Luke 10:27). As this is a command, loving God is a decision. We must actively choose to love Him. We can grow to love Him better and more thoroughly by learning about Him in the Bible, talking to Him, and worshiping Him. God loved us first, and we can follow His example of what real love looks like (1 John 4:7, 19). The world and our own minds will try to pull our attention away from loving God, but we can choose to resist. Loving God is a decision we make every day—to be devoted to Him above everything else (Matthew 6:24).

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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