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It’s spring and cuffing season has officially come to an end. During the winter months, here, there, and everywhere, love was truly in the air. Valentine’s Day was just last month and everyone was focused on love (or some expression of it). Yes, Valentine’s Day is a cornerstone of holiday commercialism, but it at least, for one day a year, inspires us to go the extra mile to express their affection for one another.
But what does that expression look like? What SHOULD that expression look like? More urgently, how do we keep that fire burning? Every person you ask may answer that differently. Some people want long dates, cards, candy, or flowers. Some may want a massage. Others may want handwritten letters. Some folks just want you to do the doggone dishes! LOL! Love isn’t one size fits all; everyone gives and receives love differently.
The 5 Love Languages – A Landmark Approach To Love
Enter Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts. This book explores the concept that two people can show and interpret love differently – like speaking different languages – and how to navigate those differences.
The five love languages identified are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. My love language is a tie between Words of Affirmation and Quality Time, with Acts of Service as an honorable mention. I can pretty confidently say I “speak” these languages well, but not like the Father.
We were dealing with the topic “How Much Do You Love God?” in bible study one evening when I had a revelation: God speaks all five love languages fluently – and He desires to receive them all from us.
Here are examples of how the Lord expresses each of the five love languages, and how we can return the favor.
The 5 Love Languages – According To the Bible
If we’re talking about Love Languages, and God in and of himself is love, then those of us who believe it should be speaking the language of God when we love. The best way for us to know that we are doing this is to look in God’s love letter to us – the Bible.
Love Language #1 – Words of Affirmation
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.Proverbs 25:11
Sticks and stones break bones…and words really do hurt. Or heal. The Word of God makes very clear the power of the tongue, ascribing to it the power of life and death. Likewise, the words we speak can be the life and death of our relationships. We would do well to use our words wisely (and manage our negative emotions appropriately), especially if our loved one’s love language is Words of Affirmation.
Words of Affirmation Toward God: The Holy Spirit consistently affirms us throughout the word. We can return the favor by extolling the Lord in our worship and by expressing our gratitude in our prayers.
Words of Affirmation Toward Our Mate: We can give words of affirmation to our mates by recognizing them when they do a good job. We can encourage them when they’re going through hard times and we can choose to use words that help and not harm. Remember, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Psalm 15:1).
Words of Affirmation In the World: In the world, words of affirmation can show up simply by expressing out loud the good that comes to our mind. “Okay, Earrings” and “I see you, Nails” humorously come to my mind, but seriously, nothing entreats a stranger like a random compliment. Also, “please” and “thank you” really are magic words.
Love Language #2 – Quality Time
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.James 4:8
Time is one of the most precious gifts you can give because it is non-renewable. I place premium value on time, most likely explaining why it is tied with Words of Affirmation as my top love language. Some levels of closeness can only be grown through Quality Time. As a matter of fact, Quality Time is the complement to all the other languages and the springboard for doing them well. After all, how do you know what fills a person’s love tank? By spending time listening or observing them.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus commanded the disciples to “lay up your treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). I would argue that time is a treasure worth setting aside as incorruptible, especially as it pertains to God and our spouse.
Quality Time With God: We can spend quality time with the Lord by committing ourselves to prayer and supplication and studying God’s word by making him a priority. We can do the same for our spouse by setting aside time that is sacred for just them.
Quality Time With Our Mate: Be intentional. There really aren’t enough hours in the day, we just have to make good choices with the time we have. If you can, decide on a regularly occurring date day or night. Make a list of activities each person likes and commit to doing them together. Pick an “ours” show to watch together. Or better yet, take a few minutes to turn everything off and really LISTEN to each other.
Quality Time With In The World: We can show quality time by simply being present. When a stranger wants to tell us their life story, we don’t always have to be so quick to rush off. We can pay attention to that waitress or the cashier and acknowledge them as human beings. Actually listening to what they have to say and being present in the moment, can make all the difference.
Love Language #3 – Receiving Gifts
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8-9
With receiving gifts and acts of service, Jesus actually ticked both of those boxes by simply making good on the Plan of Salvation – a hard act to follow. We can cater to that need in others, not just by buying the most expensive things but by giving meaningful things. We can take quality time to get to know a person, their interests, what they like, and what’s meaningful to them. Then, we can acknowledge those things in the way we give them gifts.
Giving Gifts To God: We can’t beat God’s giving no matter how hard we try, but we can show our leaning toward this particular language by giving to God’s people. We can bless God by supporting our local church, by supporting those in need, and by not being stingy with all that God has given so freely to us.
Giving Gifts To Our Mate: Sometimes, this is made easy by our mate verbally expressing what they want. Otherwise, you can use what you know about them to guide you. Is there a particular candy that reminds your husband of sweet childhood memories? Order it and surprise him. Was there a particular flower you gave your wife when you were dating? Grab a bouquet on the way home from work. Remember, the goal here is meaningfulness, not necessarily the greatest expense.
Giving Gifts In The World: Giving to charitable causes is the example that will come to many people’s minds, but there are other ways to help. For example, if you notice a person has a gift or an interest in art, grab a few supplies for them. If you are limited in money, look around your home. Before throwing away your gently used items, try to find a loving home for them. I personally have a hard time parting with things that are special to me, but if I can find someone specifically to give them to, I feel better about parting with them and I feel more connected to that person.
Love Language #4 – Acts of Service
Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
The words above were spoken by Jesus after he had washed the feet of the disciples. Acts of service require more of that precious thing that we call time, but it goes hand-in-hand with our receiving gifts. Get to know a person, get to know what they need, and try your best to meet that need. We are called as believers to serve as we have been served by Jesus.
Acts of Service Toward God: As Matthew 20:28 notes, Jesus is the blueprint for this, having come to Earth not be served, but to serve. Our whole existence is in service to our Creator, the sovereign God. As you move about the world, be mindful of your call and purpose and press toward it. We serve God through our obedience to Him, His will, and His way.
Acts of Service Toward Our Mate: As with the other love languages, Acts of Service may require a variety of sacrifices, but they don’t always have to be grandiose or expensive. It can be as simple as washing a load of your spouse’s clothes or doing the dishes after they cook. Remember all the things on your “Honey Do” list? You’d be surprised how much good it can do just to keep your word and do what you said.
Acts of Service In the World: Volunteering is an obvious example. If you have a church home, PLEASE, please, serve in some capacity. You are NEEDED. You can also serve in your community. Many cities have organizations that are specifically designed to match volunteers with projects that work with their interests, skill set, and lifestyle (like Hands On Nashville).
Otherwise, if you can’t make someone’s life easier, do not make their lives harder. This simple act of service is an expression of respect. Don’t trash hotel rooms because housekeeping is coming. Be conscious of how much mess you make at your restaurant table. And please make sure your trash makes into the can, not the ground.
Love Language #5 – Physical Touch
…Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being…Acts 17:27-28
Jesus healed so many people in so many instances in the Bible simply through touch (like the leper in Matthew 8:3). Your touch to somebody whose language is physical touch can be a healing balm.
It’s amazing how a being that we cannot see accomplished so much via physical touch. For example, the way He formed the world and hung the stars and framed the Earth. How He touched dirt and formed it to be Adam. How He touched Adam’s rib and made Eve. The Holy Spirit manifested in Jesus is a powerful example of God’s mastery of physical presence.
Physical Touch With God: As evidenced by the scripture above, the very fact that draw breath each moment is a testament to God’s physical intervention in our life. We may not feel we are able to physically touch God, but He is near to us always. We can touch the heart of God through prayer and praise.
Physical Touch Toward Our Mate: Within the confines of marriage, sex becomes top of mind in this category. However, never underestimate the power of non-sexual touch as an expression of love. A well-placed hug, kiss, or held hand, amongst other things, are good anywhere and meaningful.
Physical Touch In the World: Think carefully about the people from whom you were separated during the quarantine. Whether it was the widow living alone or the single new in a new city, many people went months on end without this having the need for physical touch met. Where appropriate (and safe), reach for these people, and when they reach for you, reach back.
The 5 Love Languages – A Guide For A More Loving World
Altogether, the 5 Love Languages work well in concert to produce relationships that are healthy and fulfilling. We all would do well to be intentional about expressing them toward God, our mates, and one another.
What’s your love language? Let’s talk in the comments!