Is Love an Action or Emotion?

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I’ve heard both sides of this argument.  Some say that love is a feeling that is proved through our actions.  Others say that love can’t be an emotion because God cannot command emotions, so love must be an action that may result in feelings.  I think that love is both.

Romans 5: 5,8 says, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us … God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  John Piper’s explains that, as we see in verse 5, love of God is experienced in the heart.  And as we see in verse 8, the love of God is demonstrated in history.  This would mean that there is head knowledge involved AND also affection of the heart.  

If we look at 1 Corinthians 13:1-7, we see both aspects of love: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  We see in verses 4-7 that love is not just a feeling.  God commands us to love others and he specifically shows us what that looks like.  Therefore we can see that love is most definitely an action.  However, if we also look at verses 1-3, we can see that love can’t be only an action.  Speaking in tongues, prophesying, giving to the poor, suffering for Jesus’ name, and trusting in God are all actions, but Paul says you can do all these things without love.  

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