Jesus said we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, but the question is, how can you just love someone on demand? We’re talking about relationship principles based on what Jesus taught us. And I’m using some thoughts from a book by Tom Holladay entitled The Relationship Principles of Jesus.
Tom begins chapter 9 in his book by stating that “You cannot command an emotion, but you can command an action.” He goes on to say that “Understanding the difference between emotion and action—between what you feel and what you do—empowers every relationship you have” (p. 89).
Have you ever fallen “out of love” with someone you once loved, or vice-versa? I’ve known married couples who were getting divorced because one of them simply declared, “I don’t love you anymore.” A counselor might say, “But you should love your mate.” Will that solve the problem? No, probably not, because you can’t command an emotion out of anyone.
Tom says in his book, “You can’t command an emotion, but you can command an action. When Jesus says, ‘I command you to love one another,’ he’s not saying, ‘Feel this way’: he’s saying, ‘Act this way.’ Act with love toward another person” (p. 90).
Is there someone in your life right now that you should love, but you don’t? Here’s what you do. Ask yourself what you would do for that person if you did feel lots of love for them. Maybe it’s a mate or a parent or a child or a sibling—someone close to you, and yet you feel no love for that person. But if you did, what would do? You’d say nice things, you’d do something for them, you’d be interested in what they are doing, you’d spend some time with them. So, pick an action that you would do if you felt like you loved that person, and do it. You can command an action, so do it out of obedience to Jesus Christ and for the sake of the relationship. Then trust God to bring back the feelings that made it easy to love them before.
What about other relationships that aren’t so close—like bosses or employees or co-workers? They’re your neighbors, right? You’re supposed to love them as you love yourself. So, even though you may not like them, what would you do for them if you did really like them? Help them do their work, or be willing to go the extra mile, or give them some appreciation? So, pick an action and do it. You can command an action, and it could make profound differences in your relationships if you did. If you do what you’re supposed to do, regardless of your feelings, you will find that usually those feelings eventually return.
For a donation of any amount in the month of November 2021 you can receive a copy of The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay – while supplies last.