During the three months of our engagement, my wife, Wanda, and I went through pre-marital counselling with Jeff, our pastor. (I recommend pre-marital counselling for any couple who intends to tie the knot). During this time, we studied and discussed the various aspects of our relationship with each other, learning what we could do to keep our relationship healthy and growing.
I view the marriage relationship as a picture of our relationship with Jesus Christ. How Christ loves us and how we are to love Him is the way we should love our mates:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it.
– Ephesians 5:25 (KJV)
This expresses the type of love husbands are to have for their wives. It is agape love which is unconditional. It seeks to benefit the wife at whatever the cost.
Having lived the bachelor life for so long, I was somewhat at a disadvantage in understanding some of the aspects of my relationship with Christ in this way. Over the years, I’ve asked God for that special someone who would not only be a help-mate to me (and I to her), but would help me in my relationship with Christ – in better understanding of how I relate to Him and He to me, in how I can better please Him and love Him. This is something I really looked forward to in marriage.
As part of our pre-marital counseling, Wanda and I went through a book Jeff gave us called The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. In the book, Gary proposes that each one of us has a primary love language which causes us to feel loved when others ‘speak’ that language to us. These languages have to do with how love is expressed, not necessarily with words spoken. They apply not only to the marriage relationship, but in other relationships such as those we have with our family and friends. These love languages are:
Words of Affirmation The person whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation would really feel loved when you express your appreciation for the things that person does or what that person means to you.
Quality Time To express love to a person whose primary love language is Quality Time, you would spend time doing things with them. This could be going to a ballgame, a dinner, or doing some other things that that person enjoys.
Receiving Gifts Someone whose love language is Receiving Gifts might feel loved when you get them some flowers or something else they like – even giving of your time.
Acts Of Service Washing the car, doing the dishes, or mowing the lawn could be ways to express love to someone whose primary love language is Acts of Service.
Physical Touch Holding hands, hugging, kissing, even give a few pats on the back – these are ways of expressing love to someone whose love language is physical touch.
Some people have more than one primary love language, and most of us respond to all five to some degree.
In marriage, knowing your partner’s primary love language can really help keep the relationship going strong. But it can be difficult to speak that language if it is not your native love language. You might have to take really work at expressing your love to your mate if you both speak different love languages. But it is worth the effort when you see your relationship grow stronger.
As we were reading through the book The Five Love Languages, it occurred to me that if this theory is true, there is probably an application to our relationship with Jesus Christ. So I asked myself, “Hmm… I wonder what God’s primary love language is?” (I actually said this out loud during one of our counseling sessions with Jeff, and he said… “You’re too cerebral!”) After thinking about it though, I came to the conclusion that God does have a love language.
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
The first language, Words of Affirmation, is definitely a way to show love for God. In more conventional terms, we call it giving praise and thanksgiving.
When you appreciate someone, it is always good to tell them and give them reasons why. You shouldn’t assume that they already know your feelings about them, and even if they do, it is so much better when you express it in words. When we consider all that God has done for us, our praise should come automatically.
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
– Hebrews 13:15
Praise is something you do with your tongue, not just your mind. Do you appreciate who God is and what He has done for you? Then tell Him. And don’t just tell Him, tell others. It really honors a person when you praise that person in front of others – in public.
If you find it hard to praise God publicly, I suggest doing something similar to what Gary Chapman suggested in his book. Make a list of things that God has done for you, then thank Him for each one of those things. Add to this list regularly, and review it often. Keep thanking God for these things daily and as your appreciation grows, you’ll want to express it publicly. Notice that it says in Hebrews 13:15 that we are to continually offer praise to God. We’re not to stop, even when we don’t feel like it.
As I thought about each love language, I found others that also apply to God. The language of Quality Time is another one. We need to spend quality time with God. Some of the ways in which we are to do this are through Bible study and meditation, prayer, and personal worship time.
When we spend time with someone, we get to know them better and they get to know us better. And what we learn from that time together helps us relate to each other.
Deuteronomy 17:18 and 19 give God’s instructions to the kings of Israel. It says:
Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes,…
– Deuteronomy 17:18-19
The time that the king spent reading the law made him more aware of what God is like and how he could improve his relationship with Him. The same is true of us. When we read and study the Bible, we shouldn’t do it to gain knowledge about the Bible. We should do it to know the Author better so that we can relate to Him better and love and appreciate Him more. The Bible tells us not only who God is and what He is like, but what pleases Him and what displeases Him.
There is another way spending time with God shows love for Him. The act itself shows our love for God. It is the same as spending time with your friend. You could be doing something else, but instead you choose to honor your friend by spending your valuable time just being with him or her.
The time that the king of Israel would spend reading the law in itself honored God. Whenever we make time for God, whenever we set aside the things that we want to do so that we can spend time with Him, we honor Him, and this is a way of showing our love for Him.
Not only does Bible study qualify for quality time, so does prayer and worship. Going to church to worship God is a way of spending quality time with God. Just going to church in itself is not. Quality time is not about being in the same room. it’s about relating to each other by doing things together. We meet together primarily to spend time worshipping God.
The next love language is Gifts, and this also is one of God’s love languages.
It’s really strange, when you think of it, that we can give anything to God. He is the One who supplies all of our needs, and yet He has no needs of His own. Our choir sang a song a few years ago that asked the question, “What can I give to Him that He doesn’t already have”?
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
– Romans 12:1
This is the hardest gift of all to give. it’s easy to give money and material things – that can be done without much thought. But to give oneself is difficult. When you give yourself, everything else that you have is included. This takes a lot of commitment, because when you give yourself to God, for Him to use as He sees fit, you have to continually keep giving yourself to God. Walter Martin said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they keep trying to crawl off the altar. Even after we submit our own will to God’s, we keep wanting to run our own lives and do our own thing. When you truly give yourself to God, you don’t provide stipulations on how your gift is to be used. You let God decide. It takes great effort of will to give up our will to God’s will. But God really appreciates it when we do so. He doesn’t love us more – there is nothing we can do to change that – He already loves us to the utmost. But it is an expression of love for God for us to give ourselves to Him.
ACTS OF SERVICE
Another love language that we definitely need to “speak” to God is Acts of Service.
In chapters 13 through 17 of John’s gospel, many things happened while Jesus spent time with his disciples. First he washed His disciple’s feet. Then he spoke to them of what was going to happen to Him and later to them. Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit. Then in chapter 15 He told them to remain in Him and to remain in His love. Starting in verse 9 He told them how to abide in His love:
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
– John 15:9-14
We are to love Christ by keeping His commandments. When we disobey God’s commandments, we are certainly not showing love to Him. 1 John 5:3 says:
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
– 1 John 5:3 (MKJV)
It’s not like Jesus’ commandments are terrible. He doesn’t ask us to do tasks that are beyond our capability because He always supplies what is needed to do what He asks.
His commandment is that we are to direct our love for Him into love for one another. We serve Christ by serving others. This is how all service to God is performed. For what does God need that we can provide? Nothing. But His children have needs, and Jesus said that our service to Him is to be done in the form of service to others:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, `Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, `Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
– Matthew 25:31-40 (HNV)
One definition of “religion” is how we serve God. James 1:27 says that we serve God by serving others – by helping the orphans and widows. These are examples of what we are to do to express our love for God in acts of service.
Four of the love languages are applicable to God. What about Physical Touch. This was the hardest love language for me to figure out. How can you express love for God physically? He doesn’t have a body. Is this the one exception?
Well, this language is not so much about physical touch, but what physical touch communicates.
In biblical times, there were a large number of people who were considered outcasts. (The same is true today.) Some were outcasts due to public knowledge of immoral lifestyles, and some were due to uncleanness caused by sickness through no fault of the person. Leprosy was a very bad disease. It not only had severe physical effects, but it also had more severe social effects. The law separated the unclean from the clean because only those who were ceremonially clean could worship at the tabernacle. Touching someone or something unclean would make you unclean. So lepers were commanded to cry out “Unclean, unclean!”. They had to live outside of the camp or city (Lev 13:45-46). But in Matthew 8:1-3, Jesus does something most Jews (and we ourselves) would find repulsive. He touched a leper…
When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
– Matthew 8:1-3 (RKJNT)
What was the significance of this touch? Jesus didn’t have to touch him. He could have healed the man at a word. But He did touch him. He reached out with His hand and touched the untouchable. What did this communicate to the leper? That Jesus didn’t consider him an outcast. That he was accepted in His eyes.
Touch indicates acceptance of a person. You’re getting down to that person’s level. You’re willing to communicate with someone closely. It’s easy to put your money in the collection plate every week or mail off your donation to some charitable organization to pay some other people to help the needy for you. It’s hard to go out and help the needy yourself.
Jesus didn’t isolate Himself during His ministry years. He allowed anyone and everyone to come to Him and He went out of His way to help those nobody else would (such as when he crossed the sea of Galilee just to rescue a demon-possessed man). Jesus even welcomed children and communicated love to them when he took them in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them.
Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.
– Mark 10:13-16
We need to show our love for God by loving the unlovable in the same way: by not being afraid or repulsed by those less fortunate than ourselves.
As with a marriage relationship, we need to keep our relationship with God strong and healthy. We do this by regularly and continually expressing our love for God through these five love languages. Some of these may be difficult, but with practice, we will become better at it and closer to God.