Is Love a Feeling?


Is love a feeling? I had a lively debate about this with my husband about a year ago, in front of the people at our Bible study. We were both vehement in our positions and used Scripture to support our statements. I have to admit my husband made some good points, and at the end of our impromptu debate, a gray-haired man beamed from ear to ear and said he enjoyed it very much and learned a lot. So I thought I’d share our main points with you.

My husband was of the position that love was not a feeling. He said it was a commitment, that feelings were too fickle. Feelings would come and go, but love as I Corinthians 13 described it was all action. None of that love chapter contained emotion. He expounded on this at great length, and his arguments were sound. They seemed irrefutable.

He even described love for God not being based on emotion, because obedience to God is not something you always feel like doing. He mentioned that some Christians rely on their emotions as the authenticity of their commitment to God when in reality they are just working themselves up to a psychotic state, and for what purpose? To feel close to God when in reality, God might not be close to them at all. Emotional psychotic states mean nothing. You can take drugs to do that. Emotion in no way indicates closeness to God.

I countered by saying that love has to include feeling. Take the Good Samaritan story. We are commanded to love our neighbor, and how? We are supposed to FEEL compassion on a person that is beat-up, and that emotion is supposed to move us to action. The people who walked by and felt NOTHING were not loving their neighbor. If you don’t give a flip, you don’t love. Period.

I often feel the presence of God in my spirit. It is the most incredible calm. It’s joyful in a quiet way. I just can’t explain it, but it is definitely an emotion. And it’s real. Connecting with other people or with God is impossible without emotion.

My husband countered by saying that he’s also had personal experiences with God. But the point he was making was that you can’t base your relationship to God on your feelings.

But even Jesus had deep emotions. Seriously. Just read the gospels. And God the Father… Just read the prophets of the Old Testament and you will see how He yearns for us to come back to Him like a lover would, with deep emotional hurt. This is God we are talking about. I feel like my whole life I’ve been told that emotion is sin. But we’re commanded to love, and love includes emotion, because love is compassion.

Then I mentioned marriage. Of course, everyone knows that marriages that have no emotion are not good. Intimacy without emotion would be intolerable to me. I asked my husband if he would actually enjoy that. He had no answer. So there. Commitment without emotion is not what God wants for marriages, or for friendships, or even in our interactions with strangers. When we are commanded to love God and others, He means full blast (heart, soul, mind, and strength), not just halfway.

My husband would retort that commitment lasts longer than emotion, and that commitment doesn’t mean you have apathy. Commitment is much more full-blast than emotion, because it’s still there, even years later. If your love for people depends on your emotions, you will not do the right thing if your fickle emotions don’t come through. And since I gave a disproportionate amount of space to my side of the argument, I will go ahead and let him have the last word. You know, as a concession.

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4 Responses to “Is Love a Feeling?”

  1. Funny my husband are on opposite ends on this one. I would side with commitment. The commitment is based on knowledge of who God is and what He has done for me. Therefore based on my commitment to God my commitment to my husband is rooted in trust and obedience to God. That doesn’t mean it’s without passion and emotion but it does mean that during the hard times when the emotions may not be present my committed love stands strong. Fun discussion!

  2. I think I fall right in the middle of this one! Love without full commitment and full emotion doesn’t work. I agree with you. “Jesus wept” speaks volumes. On the other hand, so does the Corinthians 13 passage. Like I said in my post from yesterday, I totally failed in those actions toward my kids earlier this week. But, while I want to love them in action, there are no words to express how much I feel for my kids. It has to be both! 🙂 Great post!

  3. Messy Mom says:

    First of all, I have a friend in Spokane, if you ever bump into Jennifer Swindle tell her I said hi 🙂 Ha ha. I couldn’t agree with you more, and I couldn’t agree with your husband more. Really, I have some connections with the large christian community from India and I know some that are arranged marriages and surprisingly they work! I can’t explain it. But I am far too much of a romantic myself, I am all emotions and I know God loves me that way. I agree with the above comment that this was a fun discussion.

  4. Christie says:

    Love is all 1 Cor. 13 says it is and I agree with both of you.
    One can be committed to the care of a boa constrictor, that does not mean one loves the creature.
    One can have jealous murderous emotion toward someone that may actually be closer to hate!
    True love has both and all the other things mentioned in the Scripture. As you mentioned, God is a God with powerful emotions. His love is unmatched, Christ’s death. His Wrath is fierce, Hell fire!

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