This week we address some cultural misconceptions about “Love.”
Welcome to “Inside The Cup Podcast” with Mike and Holly Walsh
Season 1: “How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”
Episode 5: “What Love is NOT”
What we call “love” today seems to be significantly off the mark from the biblical picture we discussed last week in Episode 4. If that’s true than it needs some adjustment, and we need to think about love differently, because love is real. It is something that actually exists, and we want to understand the reality properly if we are going to interact with it properly in our everyday lives.
Mike and Holly discuss how love is not a “feeling,” but rather a “choice,” or a decision of the will. They discuss the idea of being “in-love,” as well as the idea of “unconditional love,” which we hear often in common usage.
Both the biblical model of agape love and our current cultural depiction of love are applied to Jesus, and it becomes clear that we need to rethink the way we are using the term “love” today.
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What Love Is NOT | Episode 5, (04/28/22)
Season 1: How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
Mike: Welcome back to Inside The Cup Podcast. Last week we talked about what love is from a biblical perspective: “Choosing what is good for the thing that you’re loving.”
Holly: This episode we’re going to talk about what love is not, and we’ll address the misconceptions about love.
Mike: If we take a look at what we discussed last week of what love is from a biblical perspective, then it becomes pretty clear that we have some misconceptions in our culture today on this idea of love, because what we’re calling love today is very different than what we talked about last week.
Holly: We defined love as “Choosing to do what is good for the thing you love.” It’s a choice, a decision. It’s a function of the will, and it is not a feeling. Love does come with some associated feelings but love itself is not a feeling.
Mike: So yeah, let’s start there. Love is not a feeling. Just that statement might seem a little strange to say it like that. Because probably the first way you would think about love is with an associated euphoric feeling, or really pleasant, or nice feeling. But love is actually not a feeling, from what we discussed last time, it’s actually a choice.
Holly: Although, like you might say, “I really love these new shoes, they’re super comfy,” and, “They might make me feel good.” If I’m choosing what is good for the new shoes that I got, I’m not going to probably wear them out outside because they’d probably get dirty and ruined and…
Mike: Yeah. So that’s a good way to look at the…like the disconnect between these two ways of defining love if…If we take what we say in common language, “I love a pair of shoes,” it sounds a little silly to think about actually loving a pair of shoes. You don’t really love the shoes, but it’s instructive because those shoes are giving you a very pleasant feeling.
Holly: Yeah, they’re comfy.
Mike: And they make you feel good about yourself wearing them.
Holly: Yeah. Or Mike, you love pizza.
Mike: I do love pizza.
Holly: Well, you…You say you love pizza. But. You don’t actually love pizza because you’re going to eat the pizza.
Mike: I mean, think of how silly that would be, imagining yourself doing what is good for the pizza. The way that we’re using the term “love” then is obviously not consistent with the description that we were giving last time.
Holly: Nowadays, people define things as “love” is what we like or enjoy.
Mike: Yeah, it’s actually desire. So, what we’re calling love now is a feeling. We said that love is not a feeling. What we are referring to now when we say “love” often in common usage is of…is exactly that. It’s a feeling, it’s desire. It’s lust. It’s something that we want or we like, like these examples, like a pair of shoes or pizza. We’re referring to a feeling or a desire there. Not to a choice of our will.
Holly: Yeah. We also talk about, like, being “in-love” with something.
Mike: Oh yeah, that’s a big one “in-love.”
Holly: We use that phrase quite often, like “I’m in love with the new restaurant I found on the corner.”
Mike: Well, take it a step further, say falling “in-love” with a person. I mean, a lot of people can relate with that euphoric feeling that you get when you first meet somebody, and you’re just absolutely infatuated with them, and you just are overwhelmed by this feeling of “in-love.” That’s what Hollywood is making its millions right now off these movies that are trying to capture this euphoric feeling and sensation that we refer to as being “in-love.”
Holly: And you’re a little giddy about that feeling. But then what about falling out of love with someone?
Mike: Yeah. Well, just as easy as we fall in-love with somebody, you could fall out of love with somebody, because it is just a feeling or a desire, and those are fleeting. It’s not something that’s necessarily lasting or…or committed. Yeah. Oftentimes when a relationship ends, you’ll hear that kind of language. “I’m just not in love with them anymore. I’ve fallen out of love with them.”
Holly: When you’re in-love with someone, it really feels good. It’s exciting. It’s…It can become addictive, that pleasant feeling, but that is not really love. In a short amount of time, that feeling doesn’t last.
Mike: Well. It’s desire that you’re actually referring to there. It’s a feeling, it’s desire, it “feels” really good. But then the problem, if you get addicted to that feeling, then, and your pursuing that feeling, you’re not really pursuing love at that point, you’re pursuing a particular desire.
Holly: So, what…What about unconditional love, Mike?
Mike: Yeah, that’s another common way that love’s talked about now is this idea of “unconditional” love. It sounds nice. Who wouldn’t want to be loved unconditionally? I think there’s a deep longing in the individual to be loved like that. But the reality is, unconditional love would assume an unlimited supply of love, infinite resources. It’s actually not possible for human beings to do something like that because we’re finite and we have a limited supply of love to work with, we…we can’t love somebody unconditionally.
Holly: But that’s OK because God is infinite. God can love unconditionally.
Mike: Yeah. What we’re after with that longing of unconditional love actually can be satisfied through God. Somebody who is infinite and has those kind of resources is the one who’s capable of loving like that. And it’s…it’s something that we yearn for.
Holly: We all want that, but what about desire?
Mike: Yeah, so love is limited for us. Desire is the opposite. Desire for us is actually unlimited. There’s no bounds and there’s no limits to our human desire.
Holly: OK. What do you mean by that?
Mike: Well, we can all vouch for this from personal experience. I mean, if you have a desire for something, if you want something, that particular desire is satisfied or met…It’s only going to…sometimes it’s that you get the same desire, crying out even stronger after you’ve satisfied it once. Or if it’s not the same desire, you’ll have two or three other desires that are crying out and still unsatisfied. If your goal is to satisfy your desire, that’s not going to happen. You can spend your life chasing that and never be satisfied because desire is actually unlimited.
Holly: OK, so give a practical example.
Mike Um. Say, you’re looking at your old, outdated smartphone. And a brand-new version of the smartphone is available. It’s got all these fancy gadgets and gizmos…
Holly: And a cooler photo…or camera on it.
Mike: Oh yes, it can always take much better pictures than the phone that you currently have. So, then you…you know, and it’s got a high price tag to it. So, you pony up, and you buy this…the latest version of the smartphone that’s able to do all these amazing things. And that’s going to feel really good for a while. There’s going to be some satisfaction to that desire that you had, to have a better, or newer, or more capable phone. But then say, unbeknownst to you two weeks later, the most recent version of that same smartphone gets dropped or announced and it’s out, and it’s got these amazing new technical capacities that your phone does not have. All of a sudden what looked like a satisfied desire with your new phone is now unsatisfied again. Now you must have the new phone because that desire continues to cry out: “I have to have the latest or the greatest,” would be the example of that desire.
Holly: That makes sense. I mean, I think that can be anything. It could be multiple desires from: what’s in or trending for clothes, or house decorations, or having the best quality food.
Mike: You can’t actually define love by desire because we can actually desire things that are bad, or harmful, or not good for us. And by definition, love always chooses what’s good. So, let’s try to summarize these two contrasting pictures that we’ve got of “love.” One, we’ve got a biblical notion of love that we discussed last week. And then on the other hand, what we’re talking about today, is our current cultural depiction of love, which doesn’t seem to match up.
Holly: Our current understanding is: “love” is a feeling. We fall “in-love” with that particular feeling that is actually a desire. And desire, as we mentioned, is unlimited so it cannot be satisfied. We are left chasing after more, and more, and more of this feeling, sometimes not even realizing that we’re only satisfied for a very short amount of time. But ultimately, we are always left unsatisfied.
Mike: And then contrast that with the biblical model, agape love that we talked about last week. Where love comes from God, remember 1 John 4:7, “Love is from God.” And God has an unlimited supply of this love because it’s the essence of his character. It’s who God is. 1 John 4:8 says, “God is love.” So, we can accept this love into our being and allow this love to transform our person, and we become a loving person. This means we choose what is good for others, that’s love. Regardless of how we may feel. So, this choice is actually independent from the feelings we might have. And if you take this a step further, this actually enables us to go as far as loving our enemies, loving people who are even hurting you or harming you. Love is capable of that, because it’s independent of our feelings. It’s a choice, or a matter of decision. So, let’s take these two contrasting notions, our…our current cultural understanding of love and the biblical description of agape love, and take a practical example. Let’s take Jesus, the son of God, was full of God’s love, and try to superimpose these two different definitions or depictions of love onto Jesus. The first one seems kind of silly. Suppose Jesus were somebody who’s really into this feeling or desire that’s associated with what we call “love” today. I mean, you can imagine him devoting his life to chasing these kind of euphoric or hedonistic feelings of pleasure and enjoyment. Maybe his…his interactions with the disciples, his best friends, those closest to him. Maybe they weren’t making him feel particularly loved or acknowledged or…I mean, try to imagine Jesus being devoted to something like this. He would just ditch those disciples and try to find some other ones, who…who understood him more, and made him feel better. And… It’s pretty hard to imagine Jesus living in terms of what we’re calling “love” today.
Holly: I mean, if we take the biblical description of love: Jesus was able to choose what was good for those around him, regardless of how he was feeling or how he felt. Even for his enemies who was persecuting him. So, what we talk about as “love” today seems to be significantly off the mark of what love really is. It needs some adjustment. We need to think about love differently. Because love is real. It is something that actually exists, and we want to understand the reality properly if we’re going to deal with it.
Mike: Yeah, we want an accurate understanding of reality. I mean, take it…a straightforward example, something like gravity. Gravity is a reality. It’s something that exists, and we want to make sure that we have an appropriate understanding of something like gravity to navigate our everyday life.
Holly: Right, like my 2-year-old doesn’t understand gravity. When we’re at the playground and she’s getting close to, you know, there’s like that climbing wall or the little thing that’s up high on the playground, and she gets close to the edge because it’s open on the playground. You know, I have to watch it, so she just doesn’t decide to, like, walk off in that direction. Because she might just do that. She’s going to fall to the ground.
Mike: A crash course in gravity.
Holly: A crash course in gravity, she doesn’t understand that yet.
Mike: And we don’t want our two-year-old to have a crash course in gravity.
Holly: Correct. So that’s why, as her mom, I’m standing there making sure…I really don’t want her to walk on that open end, where she could just fall down.
Mike: Yeah, if love is something that’s real, and it exists. And we want to interact with it on a regular basis in our everyday life. Then we need to have an accurate understanding of it, just like gravity. If we’re going to interact with gravity in an appropriate way in our everyday life, we need to understand how it works, what it is, what it’s not. The same thing with love. If we really want to engage with this thing called love, which is wonderful and comes from God, and has all these amazing properties and characteristics, we want to understand love properly so that we can navigate it and live with it as a reality, on a daily basis.
Music: Vlad Gluschenko — Travelling
License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en