Love carries a feeling. Not every second of every minute, of course, but it has frequent enough feeling involved in it to characterize the whole attachment. Is that fair enough? We know this instinctively with every other relationship in the human experience. Set aside all the times we toss around the word love to convey how we feel about a movie or a meal and let’s limit it to the real thing.
If I ask you which of your friends you really like and which of your friends you truly love, you’d answer the latter with the names of those who draw the deepest affections from you. If you’re a mom and I ask you to describe your love for your children, your response would be incomplete without references to the feelings and emotions they stir up in you. Let’s switch sides at the table and have you ask me a question.
How about this one: “Beth, do you love your husband?”
You’d want to punch me if I launched headlong into, “Of course I do! I cook for him every single day, I iron his shirts, gas up his car, drive right behind him in mine, and I do every single thing he tells me to do.”
Wouldn’t you want to say, “I didn’t ask you if you work hard for your husband. I asked you if you loved him”?
We don’t give a second thought to characterizing love primarily by feelings in our human relationships but, somehow, when it comes to Jesus, the definition shifts. The difference is understandable, of course. He is not visible. It’s easy to subconsciously conclude that, since Jesus is unseeable, love for Jesus is probably unfeelable. With this view, love for Jesus is most about doing and least about feeling. Not only is this view misleading, it’s woefully dissatisfying. In fact, Christ’s point with Simon Peter in their dialogue in John 21 was that the doing he was assigning him (“feed my sheep”) could only be sustained and satisfied for the long haul through the loving.