Red Letters

Red Letters

The Love Habit

We don’t want our Christian life to be a ritual, a chore, or a duty. And certainly we would not want love to become a chore–like making your bed or brushing your teeth.

Or do we?

This weekend, Sam Bradford made his NFL debut for the St. Louis Rams.
This young rookie has a lot of expectations on him. Having been the #1
draft pick and handed a $50 million contract, many people have high
expectations for the young quarterback. In his post-game interview, he
talked about how he was “thinking too much” in his first game, and that led to some errors on the field.

Bradford knows that on the field his training combines with his
instincts. He has to make decisions about what to do with the ball in mere milliseconds. If he starts to actually THINK about what’s
happening, he’s dead meat.


Professional training takes hours of physical drills, memorizing plays, watching game tapes, reading
books, working out, going to practice. We only see the 60 minutes of
game time each week–not the mountain of hours spent in

If this is the key to peak athletic performance in the NFL…then why not love?

With Christ in our lives we can train ourselves to love so that when our instincts start to guide us, we know exactly what to do, and how to do it. You might use a different word, but I will call this a habit…even a chore. If you can train yourself to make a bed or pick up clothes when you see it is out of order–you can train yourself to respond to the needs of others when you see that they too are out of order. But that kind of life doesn’t just happen.


Loving others does not come by accident.  It comes through discipline and, yes, through our own works. The response to my redemption is to build habits into my life where God’s commandments are written on my heart…that I know them “by heart.”  (Like I know exactly what to do when I see that unmade bed or messy closet floor.)

Let me make an important distinction: I am not talking about making our Christian life a mundane list of “to-dos” and “to don’ts.” I am talking about training your mind and spirit to love habitually and automatically. The same willpower that we use to train ourselves in the mundane is useful for creating habits of love. We use that pattern of ritualization for many activities where we want to see progress–diet, exercise, school, being an NFL quarterback…to name a few.


Why not love?

As a Christ-follower, I must cultivate the “habit” of loving God and loving others–the two commandments called “the greatest” by Jesus.

We are naturally turned toward ourselves and our own ends. We shun discipline in every sense of the word. We would prefer to not “have” to do anything we don’t want to do. And, we don’t want to be “disciplined” for being wrong. In response, we begrudgingly do our “duty,” accept our “responsibility,” meet those “expectations,” and complete those “chores.”

This is not the abundant life Jesus came to give us. It is our selfish response. It is our heart saying, “I prefer to serve myself, not others.” But instead of just saying that, we mince words and play semantics. “I don’t want love to be a chore because then it would be empty and hollow.” Or perhaps, it would mean that we have to stop serving ourselves to serve others in love.

If we aren’t committed to training, our instincts will only carry us so far. We may know what to do, but fall short on the ability to actually accomplish it.  Like the great athletes train for 60 minutes of play time, can we not train ourselves to love one another?

Can we train ourselves to love? And if so, how?

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posted August 16, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I read a book called Mudhouse Sabbath it talked about Christians and Jews. The writer who was a convert from Judaism to Christianity explained that through the Jews repetition and obedience to God it helped increase their faith. I think this relates to loving. Through repeating our actions of love we are more inclined to love others. These actions can even create a love for this person that was never even there to begin with. If we could just be determined to talk to certain people every day we may find more things in common with them and be more inclined to love by talking to them instead of having to.

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posted August 16, 2010 at 11:24 pm

“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.” 1 Corinthian 13:4-7

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posted August 17, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Yes, we can be trained. On Sunday Pete Wilson from Cross Point Church in Nashville said,
“I am convinced that there is a real crisis in the American church today, and the crisis is not necessarily what you hear in the media, because what you hear in the media is the crisis is everybody is leaving the church. I don’t think that’s what the real crisis is. I think the crisis is that people are going to church, but they’re not transforming. I think the crisis is not that people are leaving the church, it’s that they are going to church but are not being transformed by the person of Jesus Christ. Their life doesn’t look any more like him, so they are not more loving, they are not more giving, they are not making a difference in the world. That is what the real crisis is. I don’t want people leaving the church, but more so I don’t want people going to the church and never experiencing the transforming power of Jesus Christ.”
“We have reduced Christianity down to a set of beliefs. It is so much more than that, it is a way of life.”

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Thom Hunter

posted August 17, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I believe Christians can be “trained” to love. The problem is, we aren’t training, we’re assuming. In many of today’s churches, it is presumed that if you tell people to love . . . and remind them that is how we are to be known . . . that will do it. Then they come up against something that triggers an old bias — homosexuality — for instance, and they forget that we need to love, even when we see something we know is a sin. It is through our love that people find the truth and compassion of the gospel and then, find healing. We are too selective. I know many a person who struggles with unwanted same-sex attraction and would like to seek help and support from church members, but is instead drive to silence . . . because of the perception he will be unloved.

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