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'Christ in You...'

    by Dale Krebbs

Decision or Emotion
Date Posted: April 2, 2023

"Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage". So goes a lyric of a melody from long ago. It remains true today. Sadly, it is not always so...

Some years ago a statement was made about love which sounded very unusual, even odd, to most. This seems rather bizarre in view of what most of us feel when the word "love" is mentioned. How could (or why should?) love ever be controversial? Perhaps that was what many asked at that time, too.

Most would agree that the word LOVE has been and is one of the most used, misused, and abused, ill-defined, twisted, and otherwise done-violence-to words in any language! It is thrown around and made to apply to almost any situation, attitude or feeling imaginable. Perhaps that is somewhat of an exaggeration - but not much. Some of the controversy over the word involves not only a definition, but in particular what it IS as an ACTION verb. The first thought by many, of course, is sexual and/or romantic love, and even in this over-discussed, and over-emphasized facet of the subject there is disagreement.

Perhaps it was an effort to simplify a fluid, intangable, and elusive subject, with a very simple statement in an attempt to pin down how love is manifested, and why. I suspect this could have been an effort to move love into a less "sticky" territory, and away from warm and "fuzzy". It was a way to get a handle on it, and reduce it to a "managable" concept, etc. When I first heard this statement, it seemed at first to be logical - although somewhat of an over simplification. However, the more I have thought about it, the more I have questioned it. As Christians, it seems important for us to understand, hopefully, from God's perspective. After all, GOD IS LOVE! (1 John 4:8,16)

It is a very simple, blunt and unqualified statement. The statement is that "Love IS a decision, NOT an emotion!", or, in an even shorter form, "Love IS a decision!" Period.

What is meant seems to be that by certain actions preceded by a DECISION ONLY, love comes into being. Emotion need not be involved. Some even say it SHOULD NOT be involved. If emotion is involved, then it is emotion - and then not genuine love. The idea is that if we just make the decision to love, genuine love will come forth, and emotion clouds the issue. Emotion should be excluded. Love is deciding and doing only. This definition seems to cut the HEART out of love.

I should draw a distinction before going on, between "emotion" and "emotionalism" The latter is unreasoned, often illogical, uncontrolled and undirected random emotions that have taken on a life of their own. Life becomes a bundle of emotions, in which emotion is everything. All is emotional for the sake of emotion. This should not be considered as proper in any situation, and is not the issue here.

Lets examine this briefly from the reference points of the two words, EMOTION and DECISION. For the sake of brevity, I’ll ignore the multiple areas where love, by any definition, could be active. The first thought coming to mind was the incident where Jesus sat down, and looking out at Jerusalem, agonized over its rejection of their Messiah, and past history of disobedience (Matthew 23:37). For me at least, this was obviously love AND emotion. Some may say that in some way Jesus just made a DECISION to "love" Jerusalem. His love is not emotion - just a decision. There seems to be no reason to assume that EMOTION did not come first, then the decision to love. Emotion may include such faculties of the mind as empathy, compassion, kindness, gentleness (the word "gentleman" is still a compliment), pity, sorrow, mercy, even forgiveness - all of these and many more ARE EMOTIONS. Forgiveness without the ingredient of emotion would be strange indeed. If we were to remove the element of emotion from the concept of actions ordinarily looked upon as "love", then we have a hollow, cold, stern, rigidity similar to the often cruel legalism of the Jews of Jesus’ time on earth.

Love by the letter can be very cold indeed without the warmth of emotion!

It is very difficult to believe that God loves US only when He is in a DECISION MODE, and has only a matter-of-fact disposition. God makes DECISIONS about US which are often (if not always) in the context of GREAT EMOTION, and intense FEELING. Often the Bible speaks of God's tender mercies, pity, compassion, and even regret (Genesis 6:5-7), as well as His anger and wrath. God and humans are emotional beings. The shortest verse in the Bible is a two word emotional statement: "Jesus wept!". This is not to say that all decisions or relationships must be preceded by white-hot emotion. But life, existence, actions, and decisions, relationships have emotional frameworks and connotations whether we are conscious of them or not. How cold, bland and even boring the world would be without emotions. Great acts of love are most often preceded by a strong EMOTION which bursts into a decision to implement and prove the emotion's existance by a good words and good deeds.

If I decide to express love to someone by only making a decision to DO something considered to be a "love" thing to DO, without any EMOTIONAL content, the deed may be done, but where did love begin, and why did it come forth? Where is the LIFE in this "love"? It might just as well be performed by a ROBOT (incidentally, brace yourself - that may be coming), or an emotionless clone, or a mechanical machine. Don't we hear and read constantly the testimony of many who say they "love" their car, their home, their boat, etc. Using the same reasoning just discussed concerning love being only a decision, I suppose we could know that the car, home, boat, etc. loves us back by simply attaching the words "I love you, too"! somewhere. Their car loves us back. After all, do they not PERFORM the ACTIONS of love according to this emotionless love definition?...now I have moved from the ridiculous to the sublime.

If love is to be expressed AS love - including the love of God, the love of husband and wife, the love between Christians, there must be an emotion context. Otherwise it can just be legalism without a heart. Attempting to sustain a decision to love by force or volition is like a definition of character often promoted. Character has often been described as FORCING yourself to do the right thing. The problem is of course, this is not character - it is WILL POWER. Character is doing FROM THE HEART, AUTOMATICALLY, the right thing, without enforcement of the power of will. Character is who we are in the dark, when no one sees, and our guard is down and our mask is off. Otherwise, it can be duplicity, hypocricy, and manipulaltion.

Sustaining a decision to love with will power is not love. It may have the appearance as such for a time, and even function as a temporary substitute. But eventually it will collapse under the weight of the effort it takes to keep up appearances - it is will power - and it is, in the end, not permanently sustainable.

The history of the Old Covenant proves the folly of striving to practice relational love ONLY by DECISION. And nowhere is it even implied that love IS only a decision. Something must drive the decision other than legal requirements and threat of punishment. Loving by the letter of the law only, under the Old Covenant, did not result in sustained relational actions. One of the purposes of God in the Old Covenant was to show this - the futility of attempting to sustain relational love via legal decisions and enforcement. Humans were shown not capable, under the duress of enforced decisions, of loving God and each other. God describes these as having a "hardness of heart" (Romans 2:4-6; Mark 10:5)) - hardhearted, calloused, emotionless, which in essence is wrong emotion. To be without emotion is to have the wrong emotion. Threre cannot be a vacum - something must fill it.

This occured not because the rules of enforcement were wrong, but because humans were "wrong". Things must change inside. Emotions must change. Motives must change.The starting place was inside the heart of mankind, the seat of all emotions. Even a decision to do a "good" action that does not originate with the Spirit's prompting can be cold, and unloving, and not sustainable. A "good" decision leading to a "good" deed does not instill real Godly love in the human heart. The Israelites proved this beyond any doubt from the time they left Egypt until the captivities, and until this day. Love must begin "inside out" rather than from "outside in". However, both Old and New Testaments are laced with examples of good emotions involved in the decision to exercise love, especially in the Psalms. The major players - the patriarchs, prophets, and others were VERY emotionl in their service to God, and their relationships with those around them. These were the exceptions to those under the Old Covenant who could not sustain relational love with God or man. These servants of God were given the Holy Spirit for their special callings for that time.

They were forehadows of things to come!

Eventually, God revealed this better way to all - to all who would believe in Jesus - the permanent way, the PERFECT way - the NEW COVENANT! (2 Corinthians 3:7-18)

Through the "New Covenant" in Jesus Christ, God put HEART emotions into His Law! (Jeremiah 31:31-33) The cold, rigid "love" of the Old Covenant, the administration of death (a dead legalism) has been replaced with the administration of the Spirit. Now, love does not spring from only a decision to love, but from an EMOTION generated deep in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is truly "heartfelt"! This results in loving actions and SACRIFICIAL deeds. This love is sustainable - not by the will power to force a decision, but by the in-working Holy Spirit, so that there may be the out-working of true love. In short it is the gift of God (Galatians 5:22-25). THEN comes the DECISION to follow through, under the leading of the Holy Spirit. This "new" love will now FULFILL God's "royal law" of love in obedience (James 2:8-13).

True love now includes an emotion that originates BY the Holy Spirit in the deepest part of the heart, (Romans 5:5) and then actuates upward and outward, first toward God in obedience and worship, then through loving words and loving deeds that never fade and never fail! (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Loving emotions are now originating in Christ, and empowering us to live out Christ's love in us AUTOMATICALLY. This is now becoming our new nature. Now, LOVE becomes our character...Godly character! (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Now, we can "see" love in Godly action - love that is invisible, but is there abiding in THE HEART! Love has now become sustainable...

"Love and marriage" certainly go together...and so does LOVE and EMOTION! May we always seek this emotion and love that is of God, from God, toward God, and toward others...now and ever more!

"EAGERLY PURSUE and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest..."! (1 Corinthians 14:1 Amplified Bible)

"Point of Reference" from Fred Price

"...slaves to God..." Romans 6:22

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Biography Information:
Dale Krebbs served as an Elder, preaching, counseling, and conducting Bible studies for over 25 years in Texas, California, and Arizona. He is now retired, lives in Arizona, and continues the study and research of Gods Word.
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