I heard about a teenager who was asked what she thought love was and she answered, “Love is a feeling you feel when you feel that what you feel is a feeling you never felt before.” That’s how most of us think of love. As a feeling. A feeling is something that just happens to us, brought on by circumstances beyond our control. We can’t help who we love—and, by extension, who we don’t love.

But in the Bible, love is not just a feeling. It’s not just one option among many. It’s a command. Jesus says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (John 13:34) and “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Over and over in the New Testament, God’s people are commanded to love, in different contexts and different settings, and as parents, children, and individuals. And on thirteen occasions Christians are commanded to “love one another.” Why is that? We shouldn’t have to be commanded to love our brothers and sisters in Christ; it should just come naturally, right? And who would really know if we didn’t love one another? Of course, God would know, but the Bible tells us that the world will also know: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

The world is watching us, waiting to see if this Jesus thing really makes a difference. And when the world senses hypocrisy, it will pounce.

How do we know if we’re truly loving one another? Because love is not about what we feel for others—it’s about what we do for others. The true power of love is found in selfless attitudes and actions that seek the best for another person without expecting anything in return. When we act in that way, the feeling of love follows close behind.

When the apostle John records Jesus’ indictment against the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2, we see this concept at work: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (v. 4).

This dynamic, first-century church had started out with such passion for the Lord Jesus and such determination to make a difference in their city. Along the way, something happened. Their passion diminished, and they developed indifference toward the Lord and His purposes for their lives.

What solution did Jesus offer? Among other things, He told them to go back and “do the first works” (v. 5). They were told to return to the actions of their early experience, and in doing so they would recover their passion. In other words, act as though they were filled with passion for the Lord, act as if they were determined to make a difference in their city through the love of Jesus Christ.

The world constantly tells us to follow our hearts. What they really mean is to follow our feelings. But God’s kind of love—agape—doesn’t follow. It leads by example. Love is a verb. It acts. It leads our hearts and changes lives.

David Jeremiah, A Life beyond Amazing: 9 Decisions That Will Transform Your Life Today (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017).

I have just completed a series of lessons based on David Jeremiah’s book, A Life Beyond Amazing. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year.