You may be familiar with the book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. The concepts in the book have been a great help to many couples. The basic idea is that each of us has one or maybe two primary ways of expressing love—but if the person we’re expressing love to has a different primary “language”, they may not understand that we’re saying “I love you”. Misunderstandings arise and relationships are hurt when people actually love each other, but are speaking different “languages”.
Others before me have applied the concept to the love expressed to us by our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus. And then how we say “I love you” back to them. You may have thought about this yourself. I thought I’d share a few thoughts that occur to me about each language.
Words of affirmation. Among ourselves, this means praising and supportive words, including saying the actual words, “I love you.” God does say the words. “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2) And right there we see the problem Chapman highlights, don’t we? The people making the retort haven’t understood. How about these uplifting words from Jesus: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) And he looks forward to saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) How do we respond to them in this language? Every time we praise the Father and the Lord in prayer or in song. Every time we say thank you for the wonders of creation around us, and for making us a new creation.
Quality time. Just being together with someone, doing things with them, says “I love you.” Does God spend time with us? I think so. He’s right there, always—never aloof or too busy. When big trouble comes into our lives, when we turn to our God for help, we can feel His nearness, His presence with us. I know I’ve felt this, perhaps so have you. Jesus spent the whole of his ministry with his disciples, giving them all of his time. In return, are we spending quality time with them? Reading God’s word, talking to Him and to our Lord? Gathering with others to spend time not only with each other, but all of us together spending devoted, quality time with our Father and our Lord?
Giving gifts. A gift that says “I love you” might be as simple as a flower, or it might be something really big. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16) God gives us other gifts too. Occasionally these have included miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, but there are gifts showered on all of us every day. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45) Jesus gave gifts of healing and of calling. Is there anything we can give to them? Yes! “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) And, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15)
Acts of service. The greatest act of service ever performed was given to us by Jesus. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) What of God? Does God serve us? “You have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.” (Deuteronomy 1:31) He carries us, in so many ways. Our serving is a major theme of the whole New Testament. To “minister” is to serve. We are to be servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, and servants of the heavenly Father. (I leave it to you to insert your favorite verse here, of the dozens available!)
Physical touch. Hugs, shaking hands, a hand on the shoulder are ways to say “I love you,” in a very personal way. Jesus certainly touched many, in fact few of his recorded healings don’t include physical touch. Does this apply to God? Or to Jesus now? Anyone who has prayed and then recovered from a deadly illness will likely tell you they felt touched in their physical body. But a more universal experience is metaphorical. Anyone who has experienced any sort of blessing, and knows it, has been touched. What then of returning the expression of love in this way? We can’t touch God can we? When small children express love to someone, the most common thing they do is run to them and hug them. I think that, metaphorically, that’s something we can do toward our Father, and toward our loving savior who is now out of physical reach. Without words, gifts, actions or even a lot of time, we can in our hearts run to the Father and to Jesus, and embrace them. Be content in their arms.
Well there’s a ton more that could be said about all these. I hope more examples in scripture have sprung to your mind, as they did to mine. The bottom line? Let us say, “I love you, Abba!” Say, “I love you, Master!” In any language. Every language.
Love to you too! Paul
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