Is loving God an emotion, a feeling, or a decision?

According to Jesus, loving God is the greatest commandment: "Jesus answered, 'The most important is, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength"'" (Mark 12:29–30; see also Luke 10:25–28; Matthew 22:34–40). God commanded the Israelites to love and serve Him only (Deuteronomy 6:5; 11:1; Joshua 23:11). The fact that we are commanded to love God shows that it cannot be exclusively based on emotions or feelings; it must be within our power to make the decision to love Him. Emotions and feelings may be experienced in conjunction with our love of God, but they are not the basis for our love of God.

We learn how to love God by seeing and experiencing how He first loved us: "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Agape is the Greek word used to describe God's love and it means "benevolence, delight, preference, or good will" (Zephaniah 3:17; John 3:16). Though God does have feelings and emotions, His love for us is not based on our behavior: "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Essentially, just as we make the decision to love God, He first made the decision to love us unconditionally.

Everything we have is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8–9). When we accept the gift of salvation through Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11–14; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Luke 11:13). As we continue walking with Christ through the power of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is exhibited in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23). We develop a relationship with God and are able to love Him, experience His love, and share it with others (1 John 4:7–8). We are better able to appreciate His defining attributes like righteousness, truth, wisdom, and patience (Psalm 11:7; 90:12; 2 Peter 3:9).

The love of God is truly transformative. He is gentle with us: "You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great" (Psalm 18:35). As we learn His attributes and develop them in our own lives, we become more like Him (Proverbs 8:13; Psalm 97:10; Romans 8:28–29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). We learn to worship Him "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). All these things pave the way for us to experience enjoyable feelings and emotions pertaining to our love of God. Just as in any relationship, emotions do not create a foundation on which love can grow. When we choose to develop a foundation of love based on choice, the emotions and feelings will follow.

The decision to love God is sure to come up against some obstacles. A life dedicated to loving God will contradict the ways of the world. We have to continue making the choice to love God rather than conform to the world (Matthew 6:24; 1 John 2:15). Even our own minds will war against the Lord, causing us to doubt Him and challenging our faith, love, and obedience toward Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). We need to be determined to seek God above anything else (Matthew 6:33; Jeremiah 29:13), recognizing that knowing and loving Him is our greatest treasure (Philippians 3:8). It is only when we choose to willingly surrender our insistence to approve of His ways that we can truly choose to love Him and recognize Him as the God of our lives.

Related Truth:

What is the significance of the command to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?

What things can help if I don't feel love for God?

What does it mean that God is love?

Is God's love really unconditional?

Does God love me?

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