So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-10)
What does it mean to 'learn to love appropriately'? If we follow what Paul is teaching here, we will realize reliance upon feelings is not good. We need to 'test' those feelings - making sure they are leading us into actions that are wholesome, upright, and on track with how God would love. If they aren't leading us in that direction, they need to be rejected or refocused. Sometimes we rely heavily upon how we 'feel' toward another person or a situation, but then find ourselves not 'feeling good' when the interaction doesn't go well, or the circumstances seem to change. What we didn't do was combine our heartfelt 'feelings' with the things we have come to 'know' about God in our minds. Heart AND mind need to be on the same page.
True or 'exemplary' love is able to distinguish between right and wrong pretty well. Why? There is a determination of heart and mind to listen intently to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives - not acting out of selfish ambition, stubborn pride, or foolish interest. Learning to love 'appropriately' begins with learning which emotions (feelings) can be trusted and which ones need to be rejected. We don't do this on our own, but by the power of the Spirit of God that lives within us. He helps us 'sort out' those things in our mind and emotions that can get us caught up in all kinds of silly pursuits. It gives us stability even when there is a 'heart tug' to do something we know might not be all that 'good' for us. It is these 'heart tugs' in the wrong direction that God is really trying to get us to see, my friends. It isn't that he says we cannot have emotions (feelings), but that there needs to be a continual submission of those emotions to truth in the Word of God, the wisdom and direction of the Spirit of God who indwells us, and the past lessons we have learned when we have gone both the right way with our choices.
Love is a growing thing - so if we want to be good examples of God's grace on this earth, we need to manifest that grace through love. Exemplary love, in fact. Tall order, I know, but one I am certain God will 'back up' with all the weight of heaven behind us when we get this 'testing of our emotions' thing down pat. Just sayin!
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