All these views have played in my mind for a long time, but now I want to introduce a fourth view which I don’t seek to vehemently defend. I will only share my thought on why I believe my view is correct and the others are slightly flawed.
Love is a habit and habits are created.
Love is created by information/knowledge, thoughts, feelings, decisions and actions. All of these things consistently combined create a habit, and it is the things that show up here that create the habit of love. The five things can form any other habit, of course like hatred, drunkardness, etc
So let me explain my point.
First, if I believed that love is a feeling, I would have to put it in the same bracket as hunger. Hunger comes at certain times, disappears when I eat, and comes back for more when the food has been used up. Feelings are triggered by specific things. But we know love is a bit more permanent. It does not appear and reappear like a warning light. Feelings are temporary but love is not. Feelings change but love does not. Love is, therefore, not a feeling.
Secondly, if I believed that love is a decision, I would have to trust the stranger who meets me for the first time ever and claims that she loves me dearly. Why or how does she love me? How does she even know that she loves me? She decided to love me? How true is that? It is definitely not a viable view when we categorize love as a decision. When we say, “Let’s go to town”, “Let’s cook meat” or “Let’s wear matching blue trousers”, we can’t also really say “Let’s love each other” and do it right there and then. And if it is something that cannot be done there and then like the other decisions, then it means there is more to it than the decision itself. And so I eliminate the view that love is a decision.
But what if love is a combination of both?
Well, I think this is closer home, but it leaves out a variety of other things. So, this view too, I reject.
I see love as a habit, a consistent trend of something. I can only claim to love someone if I consistently think about them, have particular good feelings about them, make deliberate decisions that are well-intended for them and act favorably towards them. I cannot claim that it is love if this happens only once and ends there. For example, if I see a street beggar in town and have compassion on him, empathize with his situation and buy him food, that is not evidence that I love that particular beggar. Likewise, if I pass close to him and he spits on me then I slap him, that is not evidence that I do not love him. There has to be some consistency in my behavior and in how I relate to the beggar for any love or lack of it to be deduced.
When the bible says that God is love, it is certainly not in reference to a particular decision or feeling or both. It refers to the consistent behavior of God which is ingrained in His nature. His faithful love endures forever. He knows us and everything about us (Information). Love begins with information and knowledge. It is impossible for me to love someone I do not know, never heard about or seen and I don’t even know if they exist. There has to be some information and some knowledge prior to anything else.
God also thinks about us (Thoughts). One cannot claim to love another if the other is not in his thoughts. If you only think about me when you see me, then that is anything else but not love. Love is full of thoughts about the other person or object. God’s love also contains emotions (Feelings). Love feels. Unfortunately, people notice this part only and base everything on it. Feelings are only part of the big thing and, like the others, are not reliable if taken as standalone elements of love.
God also makes conscious favorable decisions that affect our lives for the better and also to commit His mind, time and energy to our lives (Decisions). Love as a decision comes in at this stage. It is a strong statement to say that love is a decision, but it clearly runs along with the other elements. It is possible to find yourself loving someone without ever deciding that you wanted to love them. It is actually the most natural scenario. God also does things (Actions) that are visible to us, the beloved. Love acts.
Again, these things are not one-time happenings, but continuous trends that have developed into a habit called love. If you stand up to someone and say, “I love you!” these things will have convinced you that you actually love them, or they will doubt your statement based on what they can already figure out from these. Love is a pattern, a habit that is created by the small things that sometimes look too small, or look like they are the main thing.
Love grows from a habit to a character, such that we can say a person is loving. At that moment, the habit of love is so much in them that it determines what they do in all aspects of their lives.
So let me stop my long message here, but that’s my idea of the nature of love, the fourth view.
Let me hear what you think.