Love is more than a feeling. Love is to do with action. How we treat people, what we do to others, what we fail to do or stop ourselves from doing. These external actions are easy to notice, but love is about our attitude too. The stuff beneath the surface, like jealousy, greed, anger, which is harder to pinpoint and so we often ignore. However, ignoring it weakens our relationships.
I remember having a conversation with a friend who said he sees couples who have arguments again and again. On the surface they seem different, but really it’s the same root cause every time, like their attitude towards money or the lack of communication between them.
I see people who when they meet up with a group of friends, are constantly putting one friend down. There are many reasons for this, but often I know something has happened a few days before, and they’re hold a grudge, but don’t even realise it’s having a negative affect on their actions.
Sometimes we get the idea that God and the Bible is just about giving a list of dos and don’ts.
In our relationships, people often focus on actions. We often see this in church too. Sometimes we get the idea that God and the Bible is just about giving a list of dos and don’ts. We therefore define love as an action,what we do and don’t do.
Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is that we love God with all we have and love our neighbour as ourselves. (Mark 12:28-31).
Now it’s true that love is an action. Love is more than a warm fuzzy feeling. Jesus laid down his life to save humanity, it was a loving action. He laid his life down for his friends (John 15:12-13). We’re told in the Bible that the things we do and don’t do actually matter (E.g. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12). But love and good relationships cannot be reduced to just an action.
In our relationships our actions, or failures to act, can often be rooted in attitudes.
Love is also about attitudes. For example, Jesus says we cannot even look lustfully at others, meaning our attitudes and thoughts about others is important too (Matthew 5:27-28). This idea isn’t new in the New Testament. In the 10 commandments it says do not commit adultery, or steal, etc, those are actions. Yet the tenth commandment says do not covert your neighbours possessions either (Exodus 20:17). This is about attitude. Cutting out jealously and unhelpful desires is loving too.
Loving Attitudes Are Harder to Spot
There are unloving actions we can easily spot in the world or relationships. Like war, murder, abuse, assault. But the deeper unloving attitudes are harder to spot. Like jealousy, greed, holding a grudge, wishing ill on people.
In relationships our actions, or failures to act, can often be rooted in attitudes.
So often we can slip into the habit of not doing bad things to people, like not shouting at them, not stealing from them, etc. And that is good and part of love. But the deeper things are harder to spot and harder to change.
The Good news is that those who are in Christ have grace and forgiveness, and we’re simply called to pass that on.
We may hold a grudge and not do something because of it. We may hope that they fail at something because it makes us feel better. We may gossip because we’re angry. We may judge a group of people because of our prejudice. Our desire for money may stop us being generous. We may text an ex while in a new relationship because we may still have feelings for them. (Read my article about texting an ex by clicking here).
These things are hard for us to confront, but often weakens our relationships.
We Don’t Transform Us, God Transforms Us
Let me make it clear, no one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all do things and think things that we don’t like to admit. Sometimes we have these negative thoughts but choose to show loving actions, which is amazing. But God wants us to love our neighbour, and change our actions and attitudes towards them.
The Good news is that those who are in Christ have grace and forgiveness, and we’re called to pass that on.
It is amazing really, God doesn’t tell us to love people in our own strength, to forgive in our own strength, but to draw close to him and let our relationship with him transform the ones we have with people around us. We can often forget that.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Building loving relationships is part of reflecting God’s image. (Read my article called Reflecting God’s image is Found In Plurality). If we just focus on the action, then we miss something. Actions are important, but attitudes is part of love. If you hate someone, you can do a loving act, but you will still hate them, unless we ask God to transform how we see them. If we’re able to get to the place where we love someone in attitude and think about them as a friend rather than enemy, the good actions will follow.
In all of our relationships, we need to constantly ask God to remind us of his love for us, and let that transform our thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions. It’s hard and scary, and no one will ever be the finished product this side of eternity, but the stuff beneath the surface can make our relationships weak.
What do you think? Is changing our attitude towards people easy?