What was your first reaction when you read that title, ‘Love is a habit’?

It’s possible you disagreed. That you might have thought, ‘No, no. Love is much more than that. Love is action, sure, but it’s not mindless . . . it comes from the heart. You feel love’.

And that’s the problem with a word like ‘habit’. It sounds unfeeling, unthinking, and even insincere. Because, if a habit is just a knee-jerk reaction—something we do on autopilot—isn’t it worth much less than something we feel convicted or moved to do?

Some habits fit that idea of thoughtless action, but I would argue that they’re often the bad habits . . . or the subconscious ones—the biting of your nails or saying ‘ummm . . .’ at every pause.

The good, important habits are different.

A habit of love for the stranger, a habit of generosity, or a habit of service to those in need—these are all responses that live far from the realm of autopilot. In fact, they are about forcing that autopilot switch to ‘off’ and changing direction completely!

Such a counter-cultural habit as love for the stranger begins with an understanding of our broken world and our broken selves and develops into a personal conviction to love one’s neighbour as oneself, but I believe it goes further still, beyond even that.

To be known by our love for others—to love daily, to love instinctively—we must first choose to break old habits and build, in their place, a new one. We must move beyond a life of good intentions and of random kind acts and, instead, create a habit of really seeing the stranger, the poor, the oppressed. We must be prepared to get our hands dirty and our hearts involved.

While it sounds like a big and scary task, I also know it’s a habit built like any other. It is a practised habit of compassionate response. It’s built with easy, small steps that fit into daily life. . .

In truth, love is not as present as it should be in our world today. At least not that love for the stranger, the rejected, or the vulnerable. But ending poverty starts with the heart of God in us. A heart of love which leads to the crafting of a life of love—those big moments, those prayerful considerations, those costly sacrifices . . . but first we need to be faithful in the small steps; those daily acts.

We must build a habit of love.