Question:

I can be very detail-oriented. Sometimes I feel like my words aren't inaccurate, and I wonder if I should look at it as lying. There are still certain things I don't know if I should think of as lying. For example, is saying "sorry" as a polite gesture wrong if I don't feel remorse for whatever I did? How about saying, "I love you"?

For example, I just talked to my grandmother. She lives far away, and I don't have a very deep relationship with her. Before her birthday I hadn't talked with her in months, I think. In wrapping up our phone call, she told me she loved me, and I naturally echoed it back. But based on my actions, you can tell I don't show a lot of care for the relationship. Unlike the Bible's original Greek, which was more specific with its different words for love, our word love can mean different things. So saying, "I love you," could mean different things. I could use this to try to justify myself.

I had another situation recently that was similar. I went to help a widow in the congregation. She gives us opportunities to grow because she is somewhat needy. I would not describe her as a widow to be put on "the list" as described in 1 Tim 5. She needed help though, so I went to take care of what she needed done. After I helped her, she gave me a hug and said, "I love you". Although it felt a little awkward, I told her that I loved her too. Even though she can be needy and a bit annoying, I had chosen to show her love even though I didn't feel it for her. That's how I justified those things in my mind.

Do you think I've been lying? Words can be thrown around so carelessly, but sometimes I get caught up in what they mean. I'd appreciate insight!


Answer:

As I tell many people over and over, feelings don't determine what proper action ought to be. If you accidentally bump into someone, you should say "sorry" or "excuse me" regardless of your current feelings. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26).

While you might not have a deep, close relationship with your grandmother, you ought to have love for her as a family member. Look at I Corinthians 13:4-8 and notice that love is about how you treat another person regardless of how they treat you. I Corinthians 13 is about the love between brethren. So it is proper to do good (Galatians 6:9-10) and to show love for a fellow Christian. It isn't a feeling, love is what you do.

See: Love is ... and Love Is a Verb.