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"I Love You"

What does "I love you" mean? Some say it all the time, and others feel weird saying it at all. When you say "I love you," what do you mean? Your answer to that question matters greatly.

The Greatest Commandment

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandant is, he responded, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’" Love is complex! Your heart, soul, mind, and strength all have the capacity to love. Taking the risk of oversimplification, I believe loving with your heart and soul has to do with your emotions. Loving with your mind has to do with commitment, and loving with your strength has to do with action. This is surely not all it means to love with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, but I believe it is a good start.
We are standing on solid biblical ground to speak of love in this way, because it is clear in the Bible that Jesus loves with commitment, action, and emotion.

Jesus love with commitment. 

Jesus committed to love others. He did not feel like being crucified on a cross and being forsaken by his Father (Mt. 27:46, Lk. 22:42). He promises, ""I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28). He commits his presence to his people by promising, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18). No matter how it feels, Jesus teaches us that love is a commitment.
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Jesus loves with action. 

By this we know love, that [Jesus] laid down his life for us, ... — 1 John 3:16

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Mt. 20:28). He healed the sick and fed the hungry. He ultimately laid down his own life so that others could experience true life. Jesus shows that love is not only commitment, but also action.

Jesus loves emotionally. 

Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus feels emotion for you? Paul tells the church in Philippi that he yearns for them "with the affection of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:8). We also are given the picture of Jesus seeing a crowd of people and feeling compassion for them (Mt. 9:36). Jesus is committed to loving people, loves by serving, and also feels love and affection.

So what?

 This is important for at least three reasons.  
  1. When you look at your spouse, child, or friend, you can tell them "I love you" and know what you mean. You may mean that you are committed to them no matter what, that you plan to show them your love with action, or that you are full of affection for them. You may mean more than one of these at the same time. 
  2. Conflict is inevitable in marriage specifically, but also in other relationships. There is hardly anything more powerful than a spouse stopping in the middle of conflict, looking the other in the eyes, and saying, "I love you." You cannot do this if love is only a feeling. You are telling each other in that moment that you are committed to each other no matter what.     
  3. As a counselor, I hear people frequently say that they used to love their spouse, but they do not anymore. Sometimes they say they have "fallen out of love." If love were only an emotion, this would be possible. Since love is commitment and action as well, you do not fall out of love. You commit to love. You choose to love. The feelings of love will come and go, but commitment and action is a choice. I believe that as you and I commit to and serve those we love, we will experience more and more feelings of love. 

Let us look at how Jesus loves us. Then, let us love our spouses, our kids, and our friends in this way. Next time you say "I love you," you can know exactly what you mean. Love is a commitment. Love is action. Love is emotion. 

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