“Love is a verb. It ain’t a thing. It’s not something you own. It’s not something you scream. When you show me love, I don’t need your words. Yeah love ain’t a thing, love is a verb.”
Thank you, John Mayer, for showing us that love isn’t just about a feeling, but it’s something you do. I agree. Love is more than a feeling.
But what I want to argue is that love is not less than a feeling either. Sometimes we want love to be easier, so we turn it into something we can do, rather than something we feel.
For example, a husband may take this kind of thinking and reason that if he does loving things for his wife, then that is proof enough of his love even if he feels absolutely no affection for her. I think wives will back me up when I say that this action-oriented type of love is meaningless unless it stems from a place of genuine affection for her first.
This love is a verb thinking has made its way into the Church and the go-to verse is John 14:15 where Jesus tells His disciples, “If you love Me, you will obey My commands”.
Here Jesus sets up a conditional clause (i.e. if this is true… then this will be true). Now those who have subscribed to the view that love equals action will point to this verse and say, See? There it is! Obeying Jesus means loving Jesus.
But what they’ve done is taken the “then” clause (obedience to commands) and swapped it with the “if” clause (love for Jesus). In essence, they’ve created an unbiblical reversal which reads If you obey My commands, then you love Me. But obedience is not the pre-existent condition. Love is! Which means that obedience is the outward and subsequent manifestation of the love that was already there! This implies that love is more than a verb. There is a way that you can obey Jesus and still not love Him. But it’s impossible to love Jesus and not obey Him. The former is legalism while the latter is gospel.
Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 13 (ironically a place also pointed to for support of the love is a verb idea). In verse 3 of this chapter Paul argues that if he gave all his possessions to the poor and even surrendered his body to the flames (think, ultimate sacrifice), but doesn’t have love, he gains nothing! If love is defined only in terms of what we do, then Paul is contradicting himself. Giving your life would surely be the ultimate loving act. Yet Paul says that if it is not first motivated by love, again, he gains nothing! But if we free love from this modern definition, then there’s no contradiction at all.
What this shows us is that love is the pre-requisite motivation for resultant biblical obedience and service to others. Obedience is the overflow of a heart which has been captured by and loves Jesus.
Is love a verb? Absolutely, undeniably, a thousand times, yes! But it’s also more than that. If we don’t first experience love as a noun, we have no hope of fulfilling it as a verb.
So, what are we to do if our affections are cold toward Jesus?
We beg the Lord to reveal Himself to us in His Word in such a way that He would captivate our hearts. We plead with Him that He would stir up in us holy affections for Him which will lead to heart-felt, Gospel-fueled, cross-bearing obedience.
Brothers and sisters, let’s pray.