Introduction: Are Love Languages Biblical?
I listened to an audio reflection about ‘love language’ a few days ago, which prompted my theme for Lenten contemplation. It was about how love language translates into the way we live our faith.
So what is meant by Love Language? Well, in his book, The 5 Love Languages – the Secret to Love that Lasts, the author, Dr Gary Chapman, identifies five of them: Receiving Gifts; Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation; Quality Time; and Acts of Service. And before going any further, it’s important to explain that the author is saying that each of us has a preferred way of expressing our love to someone; he’s not suggesting that we ‘don’t do the other stuff’ as well; ‘that all depends’ on the situation…
What he is proposing, though, is that we might well have (an albeit mistaken) tendency to assume that ‘everyone else’ shares the same preference as we do. In my experience, his hypothesis rang true as soon as Sue and I realised that we were ‘serious about each other’. I used to buy lots of things for her (and still do, but less so) – when all she really wanted was ‘doing stuff together’ (quality time, which we now have more-of, since our retirement from work).
The text in the audio included a short statement from the Book of the Prophet Hosea 6 – in essence, a reflection on God’s view about what He expects from us, relative to how we express our love for Him: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings”… So over this season of Lent, I’d like to share with you a series of short homilies, which explore how these ‘earthly principles’ might translate into our living faith – as practicing Christians and disciples…
In your personal and family life: How do you like receiving love from your family and friends, and how do you show your love for them? When showing love, is that specific or unique to the person you are loving, or ‘mostly the same way’?
According to Dr Chapman – and in the ‘earthly / human’ sense – the way we love our spouse, or family, or friends is how we’ll naturally ‘express’ it – but if our loved-ones don’t ‘naturally respond’ to love in the same way, they might not feel ‘as-loved-as- we-might-think. Indeed, they might even feel un-loved on occasion.
The book further explains how, and why, showing love to someone needs to be specific or unique to the person we’re loving – and unique to specific situations… So in human terms, I guess this is relatively straightforward to equate-to (even if we may not entirely agree with all of the principles). So there’s nothing set in stone, and it’s recognised – expected, even – that we can all respond positively to any of the love languages – depending on the context of the ‘loving situation’.
I sense that it might be less obvious that we have, in a very real sense, been recipients of God’s love language throughout time, which is what I’d aim to explore over the next few weeks, and the purpose of the Lenten theme: Are Love Languages Biblical? In my view, most certainly! Jesus did an incredible job demonstrating God’s love-in-action, in ways that were uniquely tailored to every situation that he faced during His ministry.
I’ve come to understand that these five love languages are uniquely focused on the receiver, not on the giver; the giver isn’t looking for anything in return (though they might hope to receive love in return, of course, but in a way that’s as meaningful to them). And that’s what gives them biblical significance.
The first of these – Gifting – follows this introduction; next time, I’ll be adding some thoughts about the Love Languages Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation.
Love Language – Gifting.
The person who responds naturally to this language will typically appreciate the love and thoughtfulness – the reason for it – and the effort made to give it. In essence, actions speak louder than words (though not always! Especially if you prefer words of affirmation – but more about that in a later contemplation).
It rarely matters precisely what that gift may be – other than being specific and thoughtful, rather than lavish or expensive. A single rosebud on Valentine’s day can mean more than a bouquet; a replacement strap for a worn-out wristband can mean more than a new watch… The act of giving a gift tells your loved one that you care enough to think about him-or-her, and prepared to go out of your way to get something to make them simply smile.
Is this ‘Biblical’? Frankly, yes, it is – surely.
It occurs to me that perhaps gifting might well have been pretty much top-of-the-list (maybe next to service?) for Jesus… We see throughout the New Testament That Jesus loved to give good things to his people.
• The gift of food to eat ‘to the 4,000’ as we can read in Matthew 15.
• The gift of bread and fish ‘to the 5000, reported in Luke 9.
• Jesus gave the gift of healing and sight to a blind man, as told in John 9.
• He gave the gift of life to Lazarus – and raised him the dead, as we’re told in John 11.
• Crucially, He enabled the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples (then) and to all of us (for all time), as a result of the ultimate gift – of sacrificing His life on the cross, that resulted in the amazing events that followed the first Easter Day – Luke 24.
This list could go on and on. But it’s clear that Jesus was a giver of gifts – even though they were not always appreciated at the time… Gifts available to everyone who choose to believe; and always gifts of a lasting nature.