By Clinton D. Hamilton
Question: How can we love God and Christ since we can’t physically see and touch them?
Reply: Love is an emotion and has to do with the affective domain of a person. However, this affective domain in this respect is also vitally connected with the cognitive domain. Both of these domains are those to which psychologists make reference.
Love is from agapao and phileo in the New Testament. The former emphasizes the action it produces. God loved the world and gave his Son (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 4:9-10). This love was not because of the merit in its objects. Rather, it flowed from the goodness of God. He sought the good of men and for their welfare and benefit he sent his Son for their redemption. If men love God, they will keep his commandments (Jn. 14:15,21,23; 15:10; 1 Jn. 2:5; 5:3; 2 Jn. 6). One who seeks to please himself and not God does not love God. Greater love hath no man than that one lay down his life for his friend (Jn. 15:13). It is obvious that this kind of love exhibits active goodwill in the doing of that which is to the welfare or benefit of another.
The term phileo emphasizes tender affection. Trench in his Synonyms of the New Testament points out that agapao refers to “reasoning attachment of choice and selection”; phileo, he says, refers more to “the feelings or natural affections. ” Men are not commanded to phileo but to agapao God.
Phileo would be an appropriate term to use with reference to those whom we see and touch and agapao to him who is not seen. Love is an emotion. It is a conscious emotion as are all others. If one is convinced that the evidence supports the existence of God and his love toward us, then it is the response of conviction to love him (1 Jn. 4:19). Sight and touch are not necessary for this kind of emotion based on evidence that compelled a strong belief or trust. Therefore, there is a strong relationship between the cognitive and affective domains as was mentioned earlier in the response to the question. Sight and touch are not prerequisites of love as has been shown from 1 John 4:19. God did not love us because we loved him. Rather we love him because he loved us. Our cognitive domain is convinced of his love and our affective domain responds by our loving him.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV; 12, p. 357
June 21, 1990