I’m going to ask you a question: What does love look like?
Now, before you answer, I want you to think about it. Really think about it. We all have quick ideas of what love looks like, but I also think those ideas are colored by a lot of…fluff. Meaning, Hollywood, culture and society have morphed our opinions. And they’ve convinced us that love is simply a feeling. It’s just an emotion.
But love is so much more than that. In fact, in many ways, it’s a decision. It’s a choice. Are there some warm butterflies? Of course. But that’s not all love is. And in fact, you can say that a majority of love actually involves choice more than emotions.
I think the best summary of love I’ve heard comes from a pastor named Matt Chandler. Here’s how he puts it: “Love says: ‘I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying.”
So let me answer the question I posed to you at the beginning. What does love look like? Love is a choice.
I’ve shared this before, but I’m going to share it again here. Years ago, a friend of ours showed up to our church small group and surprised us with some unexpected news. He was a young, Indian man who had immigrated to the U.S., tried to date but was never able to find a relationship that stuck. So when he said what he did, we were stunned.
“I’m engaged,” he told us. I remember chuckling a little, thinking he had to be joking. He wasn’t. Far from it. With him unable to successfully date here, his family back in India had arranged a Christian marriage for him — at his and his new fiancée’s request — and they were set to meet for the first time very soon.
In other words, they didn’t fall in love but rather decided to love. Fast forward to now, and this couple is one of the most solid, incredible husband-and-wife-duos I know. They have two beautiful children. And while they have the normal issues any married couple has. But the truth is this: They made a covenant with God and are still joyfully married.
And you know what? Arranged marriages have a significantly lower divorce rate — like 10 times lower than “normal” marriages. I think that’s because there’s something about basing a marriage on a decision and not fleeting feelings that make them last. Listen, that doesn’t mean I’m telling everyone to run out and sign up for one. (And there are parts of the world where arranged marriages are forced and a source of fear and even abuse.) But I am saying that feelings are heightened and deepened by the choice we make to love and not the other way around.
At first glance, that sounds unromantic. I mean, right? That’s probably what you first thought when you read that. “Love is about the warm fuzzies, Jon!”
I’ll let you in on a little secret here, though: The idea that love is a choice is one of the best things you’ll ever hear. It’s one of the most reassuring. Why? Because feelings change. They come and go. Because of that, they can’t always be trusted. But when you decide, no matter what, to love — and make that choice consciously, constantly and consistently — it creates a firm foundation.
“Love says, ‘I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying,’” Chandler says. Once again, that means love is a choice. And in any relationship, especially a marriage, that’s what you want to hear. You want to hear that no matter what, your spouse is choosing you, and they are staying. Fourteen years into marriage, I can tell you I’ll take that over the “sweet nothings” any day. And that applies to any relationship.
We get so wrapped up in describing love as this ethereal, beautiful thing. But want to know what love really looks like? It’s choosing the ugly. And you know what? That’s exactly what Jesus did when he demonstrated his love on the cross. He chose us despite our ugly.
That’s why this month, we’ve curated some of our favorite films about love in The Relationships Watchlist. And you won’t be surprised to see a common theme: choice.
God demonstrated his love for us by choosing us when we were still far from him. Likewise, we show his love by choosing others despite our “feelings.” That’s going to be clear when you check out the list of films by our Seconds.
And as you watch them, I want you to have this in the back of your mind: “I choose love.”
Because love himself, Jesus, chose you first.