God’s Love Language
In most of the groups I have been in over the years when the two great commandments are being discussed most people slide right past the first one about loving God and begin with loving self or neighbor. So I have been thinking more about how to love God.
We can learn something from the second commandment that helps us learn how to do the greatest commandment. Jesus told us we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves”. It is often falsely interpreted that what makes us feel loved is how we love others. That isn’t the best way to love others. To live in love as Jesus desires we need to think about how to love our neighbors the way they want to be loved not the way we want to be loved.
Several years into our marriage Kay and I discovered the importance of learning to love as God wants us to love others. When we enter into a significant relationship – like marriage or deep friendship – we often begin with the thought: “I like this person and he or she will meet my needs.” But maturity in the relationship means that instead, we study to become experts in what are the needs of our companion. Then we set aside our needs so we have the energy and insights to love them the way they want to be loved. And in this way both get their needs met as we are loved in the way we want to be loved. And meeting each other’s needs is a gift we each give to the other rather than a demand we are obligated to fulfill.
The question I have been pondering is: What is God’s love language and what are the ways that He loves me that give me joy and life?
When you google love languages between people these are the ones that you see.
- Words of affirmation.
- Quality time.
- Physical touch.
- Acts of service.
- Receiving gifts.
After just a little pondering I discern that God’s love language is all the five listed above and many more.
His Love Language Toward us
Since love begins with God (1 John 4:10) so we respond to his love let’s begin by thinking about the way He loves us.
- He initiates love for us as just noted. I grew up in a family that had no faith connection so I had little connection with someone who could tell me about God’s love—but God kept initiating: Through my Aunt Lola who loved Jesus and then in college through two of my classmates who helped me begin a journey with Jesus. And over the years, when I have wandered away God has sought me out and brought me back to his love.
- He gave his life for us (Romans 5:15). I still get confused about this truth. The scriptures are very clear that Jesus died for our sins, but I have yet to reconcile this loving God as one who will punish us forever in hell if we don’t get the message. So at this point, I am just saying, “Thank you, Jesus, for suffering and dying for me so I can live the life you want me to live.”
- He forgives our sin to remove the barrier between us and Him (1 John 1:9). This one I quickly identify with. I need a daily cleansing of God’s forgiveness to keep moving into the world with love and forgiveness for others.
- He teaches us how to live fully the life He wants for us (John 16:7-15). After graduating from college I was planning to be a lawyer and thinking of that as a base that might open up a political career following the example of Mark Hatfield, a man I greatly admired. The Spirit nudged me into working with students and helping them discover Jesus. The continued direction of the Spirit led us to work with political leaders, business and professional people, and students in several places in the world. We were directed to live in Seattle, Montreal, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and then back to Oregon. We were also connected to many people in many parts of Africa. Thus we have had a far richer life than if I had followed my own plan.
- He works in us to empower us to live obedient and meaningful lives (Philippians 2:12, 13). I grew up in a family of discord and my parents had never had good parenting so even though they loved us they didn’t know how to help us in our growing up. It is God working in me that has empowered me to be on the path to becoming the kind of person we all long to be.
- He loves us through others (John 13:34, 35) Within a week of my decision to follow Jesus, Tom Carr, a fellow student, asked to meet with me and as we studied the Bible together I experienced a love that my other relationships had never given me. And throughout the rest of my life, I have always experienced the love of Jesus as I am loved by the sisters and brothers He has brought into my life. Beginning with the gift that Kay is to me. As John Gilman once told me: “No one knows you better and loves you more than Kay.” He gifts us with His presence through others.
- He loves us apart from our production. When I was 35 years into this journey (this shows what a slow learner I am) I was sitting on the front steps holding my grandson, Thomas, who was 6 months old. Thomas just sat in my arms watching a bird fly by, a car on the road, and a potato bug on the walk – And I had never been happier as I sat there holding and loving him. That has become a picture for me as I am learning to sit in the arms of the Lord and experience His love in contrast to the many years I ran around doing good to earn His love.
- He prays for us (John 17:9). The Eleven were special to Jesus and as he departed this earth he concentrated his prayer on those who would continue to bring the Kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. The fact that the Kingdom is still a passion for me is because of his prayers for me which often come through my companions – helping me to stay on this journey.
The second question is: What are the ways that I love God that connect to His love language?
I know that God does not need our love – He is a Trinity of love, but He wants our love for our sakes, because as we learn to love God we are changed to be more like Him. There is a reason why loving God comes before loving our neighbor. When we are connected with God in this loving way we have the resource of His love that flows through us and enables us to love our neighbor.
So then how does God want us to love Him?
Our Love Language Towards God
We are commanded to love God…
…With all our heart
“The word “heart” in Scripture has come to mean our entire mental and moral activity. The heart is the sphere of Divine influence.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical words.
- Quality time is one of the love languages listed. For me, this means sitting quietly reading Scripture or works that expound on the nature of God, and praying so that my heart is lined up with what He cares about in the world. God is always present and I am learning to stop my activities and enjoy that presence – and it does show God how much I love Him.
- Acts of service are another way I let God know I love Him. One of the interesting things about the Matthew 25 passage, where Jesus tells us we will be judged by the way we have cared for him in the needy people we encounter, is that both those who failed to serve and those who did serve were not aware that it was Jesus they were serving or not serving. Thus, I conclude that to love God in acts of service is to have a heart of generosity and love for everyone who shows up – it just might be Jesus!
- And when I show people love by a hug or a warm handshake I am telling Jesus I love Him with all of my heart because he resides in these companions.
…With all our soul
“The soul is the seat of personality in a person. It is the sense by which we perceive, reflect, feel and desire.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical words.
- We are to worship the Lord: Psalm 29:1, 2; 95:6, 7; 100:1-6, etc. and etc. I am continuing to learn how to do this. Some “worship” music is not helpful to me at all in wanting to worship while other songs bring a surge of joy and a desire to sing out to the God I love. Sometimes, when alone, I just make up songs to sing my love to God.
- One thing that has been essential for me to love God with all my soul is the gradual transformation of my life so I am not distracted by the constant preoccupation with me, or what others think about me. Several years ago Dick Halverson said: “you wouldn’t worry about what people think about you if you realized how seldom they do.” And the transformation is happening as I let that which is on the inside of me – Jesus – become visible and real on the outside. This living into Jesus is uniting my soul to his.
…With all our mind
“The mind is the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, judging and deciding.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical words.
- Reading, studying, and even memorizing Scripture was built into my life when I first began on this journey. The heart and the spirit can’t discern what God wants to say to me if I am not encountering the thoughts of God on a consistent basis. And the more I learn about God the more I love God.
- Praise and thanksgiving to God for how much He means to me – The Bible is saturated with passages of giving thanks to the Lord. Just a few: Psalm 18:46-49; 30:4,5: 75:1; 79:13; Daniel 2:20-23; etc. and etc. These passages help me focus my mind on Jesus and to love God with all my mind.
A final thought: As I slowly learn to receive God’s love in the ways that He wants to give it to me and as I slowly learn to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind I am being transformed. And then I have so much more love to give to people who wander into my life, whether for a few minutes or for many years. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”