How many people have experienced firsthand the exhilaration of being swept up by love in the same way a thundering surf lifts and propels a small piece of driftwood? Probably most people know what it is like to be overwhelmed by love.
Just as swimmers cannot control the surf or the ebb and flow of the tide, so too the profound tug of romantic love can dominate our feelings. Whether we want to admit it or not, while we certainly remain in control of our decisions, quite likely the feelings of our hearts will be like a rudderless cork tossed to and fro by the whim of the events unfolding around us.
When it comes to romantic love, we can never be fully in charge of our feelings, because they gain their strength from our perception of events beyond our control. The feelings being experienced during a wonderfully romantic dinner can suddenly be shattered by the other’s crude, hurtful and selfish comments or actions. In spite of an iron will commanding those feelings to return, the warmth is gone.
There is, however, another form of love that we do command. We are responsible and can be held accountable for whether this love resides in our heart, breathing its existence into our actions and words.
This is the type of love we first see God exuding toward us when he sent Christ to the cross. This is the love that determines to seek the wellbeing of someone and then act upon that decision. This is agape.
Agape is the kind of love that Jesus’ disciples are commanded to possess for their enemies. Agape is to be the motivation behind a Christian husband’s actions and words toward his wife. Agape is to be the driving force shaping how God’s people behave.
We can never be in control of any form of love which is dependent upon forces or situations beyond our control. Such is the fickle nature of the feelings of friendship and romantic love.
However, we can be in control of that type of love that determines to do good to others in spite of opposition or what our circumstances might be. Furthermore, this agape kind of love has some beautiful side effects. Often it can contribute toward the type of circumstances enabling other forms of love to thrive.
Since Jesus walked a blood-stained path to the cross for us, how appropriate for him to tell his disciples, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another” (John 13:35; 14:23).