Now, let’s look at the spiritual view that you had requested. One challenge of using The Bible as a source is that there are so many different interpretations. I’m offering my personal interpretation, so you can take it for what it is worth. No doubt there are others that see these verses differently.

I still hold strong to the statement that love is an emotion. Not only does that make sense from the standpoint of it being the opposite of hate and hate is an emotion, therefore love must also be an emotion; but, it also makes sense when considering the role an emotion plays as a motive. Having said that, love is a very unique emotion in that it isn’t complete unless it is shared between people. If you feel a strong sense of love for someone, but they hate you, it isn’t the same as having a strong sense of love for someone who equally loves you in return. We would all agree that mutual feelings of love are better than one sided love.

From a spiritual perspective, love isn’t complete unless (another conditional statement) certain things happen. In 1 Corinthians 13, that you referred to, Paul writes of charity. In the first three verses, Paul is basically stating that no matter what the accomplishment, unless the proper motive is there, the accomplishment has little significance. In verses 4-7, Paul implies that the motive without the act is also incomplete. In verses 8-13, Paul compares different types of motives and states that, among them, charity is the greatest and the only one that will not end or fail. In summary, in order for love to be complete, it needs to be followed by certain actions that reflect our feelings and are received as positive loving actions. The actions without the love are also incomplete. When combined they are the most powerful motive for good in the world. It is interesting to me, that in describing charity, Paul is describing some of the very conditions that foster the continuation of love. You can actually test this yourself. Ask yourself the following question by using the things that Paul lists. “When others are (fill in the blank), I feel (fill in the blank).” For example, when others are kind to me, I feel loved. When others are unselfish towards me, I feel loved. When others are patient with me, I feel loved. Now, do the same, except this time use the opposites. For example, when others are unkind to me, I feel unloved. When others are selfish towards me, I feel unloved. When others are impatient with me, I feel unloved. These go to support the reality that love exists, in its complete form, only when certain conditions exist. Let’s take this a step further. “When others are (fill in the blank), I feel (fill in the blank), and I want to (fill in the blank).” For example, When others are kind, I feel loved, and I want to show kindness to others. When others are patient with me, I feel loved, and I want to be patient with others. When others are unselfish towards me, I feel loved, and I want to be unselfish with others. This shows how the conditions that foster love spread because they make us want others to feel the same good feelings that we experience. This spiritual love is complete love because it is both shared between another and spread to others.

Now, and this is key, what if people are unkind, selfish and impatient, etc? If conditional love means love is always there, and these things make people feel unloved, then what happens next? You may be asking: “How does that work?” This is where conditional love is even more important to society and especially in raising children. Among the conditions that foster love, there are provisional conditions that help to keep love going in the very midst of the things that would destroy it. Perhaps the most significant one of those provisions is forgiveness. While forgiveness may not restore the completeness by itself, it is needed to keep the door of love open. Other examples of provisional conditions are patience, tolerance, humility, and gentleness. All of these things are conditions that foster love. Without them, love will fade and likely be replaced with negative emotions of anger and hate.

“Jim” was working on his car one day when his four year old son came out to help. In the course of working on the car together, the son accidentally closed the door while Jim’s leg was hanging out of the car. Jim grimaced when his leg was caught in the door. His young son, feeling guilt after realizing that he had hurt his dad and not knowing what to expect next, looked terrified. If you were Jim, what would you do in this situation? What would most people do? The boy had already known that what he did wasn’t a good thing and he would never want that to happen again. He didn’t do it with malice. In reality, his behavior, though accidental, had already been corrected because he didn’t want to hurt someone he cared so deeply for. If Jim yells at him or causes him to feel worse than he already does, then the trust and love the child would feel for his dad would be jeopardized. So, what conditions help to restore the love between them that is now at risk of being damaged? To continue this story, which is true, Jim forgot about any possible injury to his leg, and tenderly and sincerely asked the boy, “Are you okay?” The son replied, “I’m sorry daddy.” They embraced, Jim told his son that he loved him and emphasized that it was an accident so the boy shouldn’t worry or punish himself. Jim also made it a point that the relationship between father and son was far more important than his leg. As a result, the love between them was again complete. Had Jim not been aware that how you show love was the most important thing, then the trust and love between him and his son would have been damaged. The right conditions not only foster love when things in the relationship are going smoothly, but the right conditions also help to maintain the love in the relationship when things are headed in the wrong direction.

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