“That you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:20 NIV)
Today we’ve bought into this myth that love is uncontrollable, that it’s something that just happens to us. In fact, even the language we use implies the uncontrollability of love. We say, “I fell in love,” as if love is some kind of a ditch. It’s like I’m walking along one day and — bam! — I fell in love. I couldn’t help myself.
But I have to tell you the truth: That’s not love. Love doesn’t just happen to you. Love is a choice, and it represents a commitment.
You must choose to love God; he won’t force you to love him (Deuteronomy 30:20). You can thumb your nose at God and go a totally different way. You can destroy your life if you choose to do that. God still won’t force you to love him because he knows love can’t be forced.
This same principle is true about your relationships: You can choose to love others, but God won’t force you to love anyone.
During the Christmas season, we gather to celebrate with family and friends. It is often a joyous time. But I’ve been a pastor for more than 30 years, so I know it can also be a time of tension and heartache.
Is there someone you might have trouble loving this Christmas season — someone in your family, a friend, or a neighbor? God will help you love that person if you make the choice to do so.
That doesn’t mean everything will become perfect; it doesn’t even mean that person will accept your love. But you are the only person who can stop you from loving someone else — because love is a choice you make.
Watch a short video sample from Pastor Rick on the importance of love. Saddleback Resources offers 40 Days of Love, a six-week, video-based study for small groups or individuals that searches the Scripture for what love is, the characteristics of love, and how our relationships can be transformed by love.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors. © Copyright 2011 Rick Warren.