No, your author has not forgotten basic syntax (syntax is). In the title I did not mean to say, “I will love you,” but rather “I will to love you.” This is a decision. It carries with it a lot of emotion, or sometimes struggles against those emotions, but it is not constrained by them.
I was reminded of this by one of my dear followers this week when she wrote to ask if I remembered her. Then she proceeded to ask me to pray for Mongolian kids, children with alcoholic parents, especially orphans who have no one to express love to them. She asked me to pray. And the same overwhelming sense of inadequacy I always feel when I am asked to pray come flooding back into my heart and mind. (see ).
There was a time I told people that I did not love them. Bitter words came out of my mouth that expressed all the emptiness, loneliness, and disappointment with myself and my miserable life. The tongue lashing was brief but severe for anyone in range. A teenage man almost cried as he reported our conversation to his mom, his eyes denying his physical size, appearing more like a wounded child. A colleague who tried to hurt me to advance his own career went careening down the hall to get away from this monster who was verbally attacking him with barbed whips that would make a bull wince. A mother who would have given her life for her children stared back at me blankly, wondering how a human could be so void of compassion and full of hatred.
In spite of the rags of my life and the spite I had for “Christians” there were some who loved me. Yes, as amazing as it was, as unworthy as I was, as deplorable as I was, there were men and women who loved even me. And they taught me that love is a decision, much more than an emotion.
One man came to visit me while I was in college getting my second bachelor’s degree and left an indelible mark in my heart. Though I was as repulsive as any beggar he had met in Bangladesh, I knew that he loved me, that he had chosen to love me, and it marked a place on my path of where The God Who Is There began to draw me back to Himself.
Now I understand that when someone says, “I don’t love you,” it is more reflective of his/her heart than of the loveliness or ugliness of the one to whom they are speaking. How could God command us to love if it were merely an emotion? His command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” (Leviticus 19:18) and Jesus’ expansion of this to “love your enemies,” (Luke 5:35-36) would be impossible if love was only an emotion. Love is what we do. Apart from God, all we love is ourselves (Ephesians 5:29). Even attempts at suicide are mostly motivated by self-love (see ), feelings that somehow “I do not deserve this terrible life.”
But when we experience His love, it is transforming. It enables you to love the unlovely, to care about alcoholic parents and their children, to accept someone who has behaved detestably and inconsiderately. To love children who are blasphemous and imitative of you at your worst. To forgive a spouse who has wronged you. To heal marriages that are on the rocks of destruction. To respond with kindness to another who has tried to hurt you. To repay evil with good (1 Peter 3:1-12).
Have pity for the one who says, “I don’t love you.” What they are really saying is, “I don’t love anyone but me,” and that is as sad as a man or woman can get. Someone once said, “There is no man so small as one wrapped up in himself.” It denies the basic humanity for which we are made. The chief purpose of man is to glorify and enjoy God forever which fulfills Jesus’ description of the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37) but then He went on to say the second greatest was similar: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (38) The one who says, “I don’t love you,” has shriveled into a shell of only self-love and needs prayer more than all the addicts in the world. Because only Yahweh can reach into that shell and bring that unloving one back into fellowship with Him and with others. So if someone ever tells you to your face, “I don’t love you,” simply respond, “I will to love you.”