Posted by: fatherof11 | December 3, 2005

Loving without liking

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and seeshis brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18 (NKJV)

A common complaint from adoptive parents that also have biological children is that they do not feel the same way about their adopted children that they do about their biological children. We have also had these feelings with the children that we have adopted and have struggled with the feelings of guilt that it brings.
However, as with all feelings of guilt, we must examine the source from a Biblical standpoint and see if the feelings are correct. It is possible that we truly are being sinful in our unloving spirit towards them. In that case, the feelings are showing us where we need to repent and to drive us to seek the forgiveness of our Lord.
However, it is often the case that some of our guilt is false and we have allowed our culture’s view of love to permeate our thinking. Our culture views love as this sentimental feeling that has us feeling all warm and squishy toward the person we love. When we do not feel this way, we think that we should and start to feel guilty about it. The problem is that this is far from the Biblical definition of love. The Biblical definition of love is an act of the will where one does what is best for another person, even to the point of self-sacrifice. Biblical love has little to do with what we feel; it has everything to do with what we do for and how we treat another.

The Bible does deal with our feelings and emotions. However, it does not place nearly the emphasis on them that our culture does. Our culture runs on its emotions. Love is something you fall into and out of. After all “Love just happens and you can’t change how you feel about someone can you?” However, the Biblical picture is very different. In fact, the New King James
Translation of the Bible never uses the words “emotion” or “emotions” and the word “feelings” only appears once:

Proverbs 29:11 A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back. (NKJV)

Yet some will say that they cannot act loving towards them, because they do not feel loving towards them. This is simply unbiblical. The Bible teaches us that if we act rightly our feelings will follow. In his book “The Christian Counselor’s Manual,” Jay Adams talks about this in relationship to husband and wife, but the principle is equal valid to child and parent.

Living According to feeling rather than God’s commandment is a fundamental hindrance to godliness and is a factor with which every Christian counselor must learn to deal. It is a clever “wile” of Satan to tempt men to think that they cannot do what God requires because they do not feel like doing it, or that they must do what they feel like doing and cannot help themselves.

Often the argument takes subtle forms, which at first seem plausible, even pious. For instance, a husband and wife may say, “I guess there is nothing left to our marriage – no love – no feeling – nothing,” and thereby hope that the Christian counselor will concede that a divorce is allowable on other than scriptural grounds.

If they can get him to agree to this, they hope that their bad consciences over what they have already determined to do may be salved. They vainly look for balm in Gilead.

But, instead, the nouthetic counselor replies: “I am sorry to hear that. I guess you will have to confess your sin and learn how to love one another, then.” Their reaction to this is usually sheer astonishment. “But,” they protest, “we told you that we don’t feel anything for
each other any more.”

I understand, but that is irrelevant; God says that you must love one another. When you learn to do so, the feelings of love will follow. Love is not feeling first; it begins with obedient living.”

“What? Do you mean to say that we must try to love one another contrary to all of our feelings?”


“But wouldn’t that be hypocrisy?”

“No, that would be obedience to God, who has commanded:
‘Husband, love you wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).

Joe, God says that you are responsible to love Phyllis; love begins with the husband, whose love must reflect the love of Jesus Christ (I John 4:19).

So if we are not to operate on feelings, what are we to operate on? We are to operate in obedience to the Word of God. God commands us to love one another. We are even commanded to love our enemies. Surely if we are to love our enemies we ought to be able to love a child who God has placed in our home.

You may ask then, “If love is not a feeling, what is it?” Let us examine what God does say about love:

1 Cor 13:4-8a Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.

Love is defined by what it does and does not do. How it behaves toward the other not how it feels towards them. It does suffer long, it does not envy, etc. Based on this definition of love, there is no problem loving a person, even though we do not like them. I cannot believe that Jesus liked those who mocked and tortured Him. However, the Bible is clear that He loved them (and us) enough to die for them.



  1. I love Heb 12:2, that it was for the joy set before Christ that he endured the cross, despising the shame…

    That is a kind of love that is not borne about of a fuzzy-feel good postmodernist interpretation of love.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. It is always good to be reminded that we are not to be dictated by our feelings, and that we CAN live above and sometimes contrary to our feelings, by the grace of God. Praise God that we are no longer slaves to our feelings. When we know our feelings are unbiblical, we can go to the truth of God’s Word and find sure footing there.

  3. Love your blog! Bob posted a link to it at TSC yahoo group, so I strolled on over, and what great wisdom! I still haven’t read through alot of the posts, but have gleaned some great information so far. We have adopted 4 of our 7 kids, and are in the middle of our first older-child, international adoption (from Guatemala). Thanks for sharing so much on this blog.
    Kendra Jackson

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