And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11 ESV
Find a nice thick concordance and look up the word ‘emotion’. We all know what emotion is, we all experience emotion every day. But the Bible does not use the word. The experience of emotion is not new to mankind, and the Bible does not ignore it. The Bible speaks to emotion but uses other words for it. The Bible calls this experience ‘passion’ and ‘sensuality’.
‘Passion’ and ‘sensuality’ are not words that are always good, or always evil. Our passions and our body’s sensual perception are ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in relation to what we are passionate and sensual about. Passion refers to the strength of our desire for something. Often it refers to the strength of our visible desire for something. Sensuality refers to what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Sometimes our sensual passions are revealed in physical lust for something or someone.
Our emotions; our passion and sensuality, have a lot to do with how Americans define ‘love’. But this is NOT the heart of God’s definition of ‘love’. God’s love is primarily a choice, not a feeling.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
We can choose to be patient, and kind, and humble, and polite; even to people we don’t emotionally like very much. We can choose to act in a loving way even when we don’t ‘feel’ like it. We can choose to treat our enemies in a loving way; even though it is hard to like your enemy emotionally. In fact, trying to find warm friendship with your enemy may be playing on the wrong side of the edge of sanity.
There is no doubt that our passions and sensuality affect our expressions of patience, and kindness, and the rest of God’s definition of love. But do not think that the key to faithfulness toward God is based on how you feel. Christian love is based on what you know, and what you discern, and then on what you choose to do.
Look again at the Philippians passage at the top of the article. Our love is to abound more and more “with knowledge and all discernment”. Certainly ‘knowledge’ begins with remembering how God defines ‘love’. Certainly ‘discernment’ involves measuring yourself (and other people) in relation to how God defines ‘love’.
At some point in your Christian pilgrimage you simply must come to grips with remembering what God says about love. Then you can commit yourself day after day to choosing to love God and others. As you dare to try this, you will find that your love will abound, and over time it will abound more and more. The Christian life will take on God’s intended meaning. This is good for you, it is good for your spouse and family, and it is good for the people around you.
Or, you can be swept away with sensual passions toward infatuation, romance, friendships, physical intimacies and altruism. You can even think you are pleasing God while you do so, whether God agrees with you or not.
Do not let your love grow cold. Love on purpose. Thank God for the experiences of passion and sensuality, but don’t let anything cloud your intention to follow Jesus Christ in the way He leads. Passion and sensuality are real, but the love of God is more real; and more powerful. If you express your passions and sensuality in the love of God, then they are holy.
The book, ‘The Most Excellent Way’, can help.