Sometimes you can roll your eyes or shake your head at an old wives tale that keeps getting repeated, or a saying that's only half true, but you know what people really mean by saying it. But there's one that's really getting old, and it's really starting to get on my nerves. But more importantly, it matters. (Unlike so many sayings, for example- the difference between happiness and joy is that joy lasts through circumstances. Actually, there is no difference. In the Bible, they are interchangeable, but see, I digress into things that don't really matter.) This one does matter. Here it is:
"Love is not a feeling."
It's very true that love encompasses more than only feelings. But I would argue that feelings that do not produce action are not true feelings at all, but are, as James says, "dead". I would also submit that love without any feeling is a cold, hard love if it's love at all, and certainly not a love we should be striving for. It's not the kind of love God has.
"he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing." Zeph 3 That's not emotionless love!
"The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Ps 147
Pleasure! Not begrudging duty.
Ironically, people bring up the cross as the greatest act of love, and yet the Bible says, "for the joy that was set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross." Heb 2
Nor is unfeeling, dutiful obedience what God wants from us.
Ps 37:4 tells us to, "delight yourself in the Lord."
Phil 4:4, to, "rejoice in the Lord."
“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.” Ps 43:4
“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” Ps 63:3
And just in case you buy into the other common line that joy is a bonus we sometimes get but not a guarantee, and certainly not necessary, check this out:
"Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything." Duet 28:47
This is a warning. I realize it's an Old Testament warning, but it tells us just how seriously God takes emotion.
If this is how we're to love God, then why would loving others be any different? (see Rom 12:10) Are there days or moments or periods of time when we simply love with action even though the feeling isn't there? Yes! BUT, we should not be OK with staying in that position! We should be praying for and even expecting those emotions to return. As a wise friend once told me, "If you want the butterflies back in your marriage, pray for them to come back!" Don't be content with heartless "obedience" (if you can call it that) thinking you're doing all you're supposed to.
So why is this so important (other than the fact that it's all over the Bible)? It's important because we can't do it on our own. We need God's help. When He commands things from us we can't muster up on our own, we must rely on Him to do it. We can muster up action; we can't muster up emotion. It's almost impossible. “Who then can be saved?!” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt 19 People who serve out of duty and willpower alone glorify themselves. People who serve through the power of the Spirit and out of the joy and desire of their hearts, glorify no one but God.
This is one old wives tale we need to lay to rest.
Here is an excellent sermon on this very topic.