Monday, February 12, 2007

"Love" Is a Verb

Writers, editors and linguists love to debate about the tendency in recent years to “verbify” a noun — in other words, to take a word that has traditionally been used as a noun (an object, person, place, etc.) and use it as a verb (an action).

As a friend once pointed out to me, when we were younger, a journal was a blank book you wrote in, like a diary. Now people talk about “journaling”. We have verbified words like impact, divorce, switch, access and gift. Here’s a crazier example. Lately I learned that “brick” has become a verb (informally): when an appliance or piece of equipment breaks down and becomes useless, it has been “bricked”.

Ironically, the word “love” actually is a verb and yet we commonly use it only as a noun, to describe a feeling. Even when we use it in a sentence as a verb — “I love you” — what we usually mean is “I feel love toward you.”

But if love is a verb — an action word — then isn’t it something we should do? Doesn’t it require some action, some effort, some participation on our part? It’s like saying to your friend, “I trust you” but not confiding in him or not lending her something. It’s not enough to feel trustful toward someone; you must also demonstrate that trust. It’s not enough to feel protective of your children; you must actually protect them. It’s not enough to feel thankful toward someone; you must show them your gratitude.

Feelings come and go. But actions can be carried out regardless of the presence of feelings, because they are intellectual choices that we make. God has given us the ability and the intelligence to do the right thing, to do the good thing, even when we don’t have the feelings that might give us some extra motivation.

The Bible also gives us clear instructions that we are to love. We must love God (Deuteronomy 6:5), our neighbour (Matthew 22:39), our enemy (Matthew 5:43), our husband (Titus 2:4), our wife (Ephesians 5:33), our children (Titus 2:4), our parents (Matthew 19:19), and each other (John 13:34).

How do we love? How do we go beyond feeling satisfied that we feel affection or admiration or sympathy toward someone?

“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 - NIV). When it comes to loving, God spares no expense. He doesn’t count the cost to Himself. He doesn’t ask, “What’s in it for me?” He not only does what needs to be done, but He goes the extra mile.

What about me? What about you? How will you love God, your friends, your family, your enemy this month?

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