Has it ever struck you how strange it sounds to be commanded to love? Say you are a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan and someone told you to love the Dallas Cowboys. This would not sound like a joyful invitation, but rather a cruel joke. How can I love what I do not even like?
Scripture does not merely invite us to love God and neighbor; we are commanded to do so. And this is where it gets a bit tricky. How can we be commanded to love? Sometimes in reaction to our culture, which often confuses love with sappy sentimentality, Christians are tempted to let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. We say things such as "love is not a feeling—it is a commitment." While I am sympathetic with the concerns of well-meaning Christians, I have to admit that concept of love is depressing if it exhausts one's definition of love. Commitment is vital, certainly, but is that really all we mean by love? I am happy if my wife is committed to me, but I sure hope she feels something good, too. Marriages based on contractual obligation alone and not nourished by the waters of affection, tenderness, and grace lead us to the cool of winter, not the warmth of spring.