The 5 Love Languages | Part 2
BookRemarks are not book reviews, but topical posts inspired by books. This post was inspired primarily by Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.
Last time, we discussed how Gary Chapman’s concept of The 5 Love Languages could be used to strengthen our romantic relationships, but near the end of that post we suggested an alternative way to use the concept of love languages – to strengthen our love for God during those times we start to feel distant from Him.
As Chapman says, “Love is a choice” (page 140), and there are several ways in which we can choose to love God. In fact, we can actually use Chapman’s love languages as a framework to help us draw closer to God.
Remember, each love language has several “dialects,” so we will see various ways we can express our love to God through obedience, regardless of which “language” we choose to speak at any particular time.
Unlike our human partners, who have a primary love language, God is fluent in all of these languages. We don’t have to experiment to see what pleases God most; our obedience pleases Him.
But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get too complacent by settling into expressing our love for God through just one or two dialects. Instead, we should try to become multilingual. God loves variety, and has instilled some of that in us, as well.
Plus, who knows what new passion we may discover by moving outside of our typical comfort zone? Remember, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Be brave in experimenting with new dialects!
So, let’s explore ways we can use Chapman’s categories to express (and deepen) our love for God.
(Please note that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second greatest is to love others; see Matthew 22:37-40. Thus, some dialects will focus on our actions toward God, while others will focus on pleasing God through our actions toward others.)
Words of Affirmation. There are several dialects of this love language, including Praise, Gratitude, Encouragement, Kindness, and Forgiveness.
Praise. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary defines praise in this way: “To honor and ascribe worth to God” (page 845). We can take the Psalms as our model: “I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of your wonders” (9:1). David then goes on to tell how God upholds us, destroys the wicked, reigns forever, and is known for his justice.
When we praise God, we can do so in personal prayer – but we should also praise Him publicly: “Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world” (Psalm 49:1). How else will people know of God’s greatness and goodness unless we proclaim it to them?
Gratitude. The psalmist says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” (107:1). We should give thanks to God for all the blessings we have in life, whether that is food, family, fellowship, fun, or whatever else. But just as earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their children (Matthew 7:9-11), so everyone knows how to be grateful for the good things in life.
So, while we should definitely thank God for his blessings, we should also remember to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, emphasis added). To speak God’s love language most lovingly, we should try to express thanks to God even for the trials in life. Doing this shows we trust Him: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28; emphasis added). Trust that God will see you through your trials, and bring something useful out of them.
Encouragement. God doesn’t want us only to speak Words of Affirmation to Him, but to each other as well. Writers in the New Testament often instruct us to use our words to support others: “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18), “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5: 11), “But encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13), “But let us encourage one another” (Hebrew 10:25), and elsewhere. We can obey God by encouraging each other.
Kindness. If loving others is the second greatest commandment, it should not surprise us that God wants us to be kind to people. Proverbs 14 says, “Blessed is he who is kind to the needy” (verse 21) and “Whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (verse 31). Later, we are told, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord” (19:17).
Elsewhere, the Bible indicates that we should be kind to the oppressed (Daniel 4:27), to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35), and to those who have wronged us (1 Thessalonians 5:15). A godly person, according to Paul, “must be kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:24). In Galatians, Paul lists kindness as one of the Fruits of the Spirit (5:22). It’s worth remembering that one of the most famous parables of Jesus details the kindness of the Good Samaritan, who took care of the needs of a man beaten and left for dead.
Forgiveness. To please God, we must be willing to forgive other people who have wronged us. If Jesus was willing to suffer crucifixion to forgive our sins, then we should be willing to forgive the hurts others cause us.
Indeed, in the parable of the Unmerciful Servant, the master calls in the servant he had once forgiven: “‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’” (Matthew 18:32-33).
Elsewhere, Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus even suggests that anger is a form of murder committed in the heart (Matthew 5:21-22). Remember, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). If our hearts are unforgiving, God will know – extend the same forgiveness He has shown you to those who have wronged you.
Quality Time. “By ‘quality time,’” Chapman writes, “I mean giving someone your undivided attention” (page 55). This definition reminds me of Donald S. Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, in which he defines worship as “focusing on and responding to God” (page 104).
In the phase of romantic love, we find it easy to focus exclusively on our partner – there might as well be no one else in the restaurant. We should treat our relationship with God in a similar manner, and choose times and places to spend time with, and focus on, Him. Some of the ways we can do this are through attending church, personal prayer, and reading the Bible.
Attending church. It is important to attend church regularly. For one thing, the writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing…” (10:25). For another thing, the church serves as much more than the place where we hear sermons. But regular church attendance also signals to God (and to others) that we prioritize our relationship with Him.
But deep relationships are not forged by spending just an hour a week with someone. Therefore, we must do more.
Reading the Bible. Pastor and author Chip Ingram has credited daily Bible reading as one of the things that has most significantly – and positively – impacted his life. Indeed, a morning “quiet time” is an excellent way to start the day. Even fifteen minutes of reading and reflection in the morning will make a difference in our relationship with God, if we make it a daily habit.
But we shouldn’t just read the Bible and call it a job well done. We should interact with it. In Psalm 119, the speaker meditates on God’s works, precepts, wonders, decrees, law, statutes, and promises. We can also memorize verses, and journal about how we understand and can apply the Word in our lives.
Spending quality time with God’s Word has never been easier, as we can stream sermons, the Bible, or Christian books online or download them as audiobooks or podcasts.
Praying in secret. It’s been said that the Bible is how God speaks to us, and prayer is how we speak to God. Although there is a time for public prayer, we should also have private conversations with God. In fact, Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father” (Matthew 6:6). Luke records that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (5:16). And, there are certainly times when we should have such formal conversations with God, whether kneeling at the altar in church or beside our bed – but those are not the only times we should pray.
In fact, Paul instructs us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). That is, we should have a constant, informal conversation going on with God. If something good happens, we should thank Him; if we start to worry about something, we should ask for God’s help with it.
Although both Words of Affirmation and Quality Time are both important ways we can express our love to God, they are not the only ways.
Join us next time as we look at how we can speak the final three “love languages” to God