Love is Irreducible
1 Corinthians 13:3 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
For a while I was taught and had been teaching that ‘love’ isn’t just about feelings. It’s reasoned that you can love someone, perhaps particularly an enemy, without feeling any love toward them at all. The important thing is to act in a loving way towards them and that equals love.
I think it was D.A. Carson who pointed to this 1 Corinthians 13:3 verse and raised the question of whether it’s valid for us to reduce love to mere actions like that. This verse seems to be saying that you could act in loving ways and sacrificial ways and yet still be found wanting when it comes to love.
So is there an irreducible element to ‘love’ that simply acting in a loving way doesn’t quite capture? What is this irreducible element? Is it motive, emotion or affection?
How does God’s love for us in Christ shape our understanding of love? Jesus didn’t just sacrifice himself and act lovingly towards humanity. He was actually motivated by a deep love for us… But what is that love?
And how does this affect how we ‘love our enemies’? It’s not enough just to act kindly towards them. That’s difficult enough. But if there’s some other irreducible element to love – perhaps something internal, something on the level of desire or motive – then it truly does take something supernatural to cause someone to love their enemies.
But maybe that’s Jesus’ exact point.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.