I heard something last month (the month that in the last five years has undergone a cultural name change from June to Pride) that shook me deeply because it was fundamentally and experientially incorrect. Someone said:
“You don’t choose who you love.”
My mind and heart in that instant both rose in defiance of this idea, an idea that has been gaining popularity in recent years. I knew instantly that it was a dangerous notion, and a concept that can have detrimental effects on the younger generation, and thoroughly confuse those of us who know better.
An internet search on the word “choice” in regard to feeling proves to be even more confusing. There are a myriad of theories of how choice factors into love. But the popular opinion now amidst the LGBTQ community and their supporters, is that one has no control over who they love, that they are at the mercy of their feelings, that they cannot reign over their thoughts or behaviors. It is unclear whether they really believe this or if it is something that they grab onto because it gives them a sense of affirmation and peace.
And to a degree, I get it. If one does not know Christ, does not have a renewed mind and heart as is promised in the scriptures, (Romans 12:2, Ezekiel 36:26, Jeremiah 24:7) then what else does a person have to rely on but their own emotions? What else could possibly guide them than their feelings and their misguided heart?
But even by society’s definition and standards, this reasoning begins to crumble in other scenarios.
First, what do these same people have to use as a defense for adultery if it’s true that one doesn’t choose who they love? I would argue that people still have a delineated moral line that cannot be crossed when it comes to cheating. Regardless of your sexual orientation or preference or relationship status or religion, most people agree that cheating is wrong. It hurts people; it breaks hearts, it destroys marriages and families, it creates deep wounds in children that color their perspective and darken their view of love, it ruins friendships and brings division even in the workplace. It is clear in these circumstances that there is some expectation that you hold fast to your commitments, that you can’t just follow your feelings and use the excuse that you couldn’t help it when you’re unfaithful.
Second, this same group of progressives will be the first to use “choice” as the foundation of their argument when supporting abortion as a right. Once a woman becomes pregnant by her choice to have sex (in all cases except 1% according to research by the Guttmacher Institute), she champions choice when deciding to end her baby’s life because it is inconvenient for her. She has allies in virtually every corner telling her that choice is king. But in this arena, choice is definitely not loving, because love here would require sacrifice, inconvenience, and hardship. The mention of irresistible, unstoppable love is nowhere to be found in defense of the unborn child.
Yet sacrificial love and choice is the intrinsic essence of the Gospel, the very basis of Christianity. And this is why Christians must learn to see love and choice through a biblical lens, to memorize God’s definitions of the words. In studying the scriptures, one finds that it is an irrefutable fact that God’s love for us was both a feeling AND a choice–a feeling because He Himself IS love perfected and he created us out of an overflow of love, and a choice because we were unlovable. After the fall, each one of us was born into sin and on a rebellious track to destruction until God in His mercy chose to save us through the most painful, sacrifical choice imaginable.
2 Thessalonians 2:13
“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
1 Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Even if the sacred truth and mystery of God’s grace and choice were not clearly spelled out for me throughout the Bible, I would learn the daily reality of choice in love from my own marriage. Initially, feelings, attraction, and similarities drew me and my husband together, but it wasn’t long before we had our first fight, then our second, then faced enough repeated difficulties in our 15 years of marriage that have shown me that loving him, being loving toward him, is a daily choice. Some days the choice is as easy as breathing, but other days it takes my commitment to Jesus alone to keep me from walking out the door.
And a few years ago, during a season of temptation,when my feelings were pulling me away emotionally and mentally from my husband, I had to recognize the very dangerous reality of what following my carnal desires would do to my marriage, my children, my parents, siblings, friendships and community. Blindly bowing to my whim would have been foolish and destructive, and no one would have believed that I lacked the self control or wisdom to make a better decision. Daily, I chose to quote scripture, pray, deny those feelings and chose instead the life that God had gifted me, one that glorified Him and not myself.
It’s on these days that I have to know the Word, to listen to the Holy Spirit remind me of the sacrificial love that God demonstrated for me, a love I could never earn or deserve–to understand that I don’t even deserve my husband’s devoted and imperfect love, and that it is his choice to love me as well.
And I’m so grateful that he chose me and continues to choose me every day. Because for all the times that my feelings try to lie to me, on those lackluster or boring days, there are just as many, nay more, days that I am overwhelmed with love and joy and gratitude for the person I get to choose to love. And that’s when I can’t imagine feeling any other way.