Week two of the “Welcome to the Gray Space” series is here! If you have not read Molly’s post from last week, I would encourage you to check it out here. It lays the foundation for our dating and relationship series and it is jam packed full of truth!
This week is all about LOVE – what true love looks like and how we can actively love the people we are in relationships with (both platonic and romantic) better!
I grew up at a boarding school, which meant from the time I was about four years old, I was very much aware of teen romance — the epitome of which was high school prom, or so I thought. My younger sister, Abby, and I would lay awake at night planning our prom dresses, hair, makeup, and perfect date. Somehow in my little brain, prom = love.
Boy was I wrong!
I quickly learned that love was not cute pictures and getting all dressed up. And you probably have too.
Our society has many expectations for love. Maybe you have been led to believe that love means having sex, even outside of the context of marriage. For some, love means having your significant other sing your praise all over social media. For others, it means expensive dates and lavish gifts. For others, it feels like butterflies in your stomach when you see that special someone.
The common denominator in all of these scenarios – they are fleeting. Promises of “I love you, so let’s do it” break, people leave, social media fades, money can be lost in the blink of an eye, and eventually butterflies visit less frequently.
So what exactly does true love look like? And how do we live it out, particularly in the context of relationships?
Last week, Molly wrote about our identities as daughters of the King. This is exactly where true love starts. Every single person to ever live has been created in the image of God – imago Dei. This reality means that we are loved unconditionally by a perfect Creator. He loved the world so much that He sent his one and only son to die on the cross so that, if we choose to believe, we can have eternal life (John 3:16).
Jesus’ love is active and sacrificial. As believers, the way that we love those we are in relationship with needs to look like his. However, it does not take much to realize that people give and receive love differently. In “Christianese” we call them the 5 Love Languages. Dr. Gary Chapman is a pastor and author, who came up with the 5 primary love languages people have:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
- Quality Time
Now, Gary Chapman is not God and his books are not to be used in place of the Bible regarding love. However, I want to take a look at how we see God’s love through these five languages and how to make it practical for you.
Words of Affirmation
People with words of affirmation as their top love language thrive off of sweet notes, encouraging text messages, and sincere compliments. The perfect example of this is seen all throughout the Word of God. We know that all Scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and filled with truth about who we are in Christ and his immense love for us. Colossians 3:12 tells us that we are God’s chosen ones, holy, and dearly loved. As we love the people in our lives, we model Christ’s love by speaking truth into their life from the Word of God.
Acts of Service
Offering to help with chores, run errands, or cook a meal is a great way to serve a person whose top love language is acts of service. Christ committed the ultimate act of service by dying on the cross for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God proves his own love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God calls us to outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10) and that “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). When we put the needs of our loved ones in front of ourselves, we love like Christ.
The love language of physical touch means thoughtful, appropriate touch. Hugs are everything and an arm around the shoulder to comfort is key. Throughout the Gospels, we see instances when Jesus laid a hand on the sick to heal them and that he recognized when he was being touched by someone who needed him (Luke 8:43-48). Though today we can not feel Jesus physically, it is evident through his life that the Lord knew how to love well through physical touch. When we love like Jesus through physical touch, we take care of the physical needs of our loved ones.
People with quality time as their top love language need uninterrupted time with the people they care about most. They cherish time spent with “their people.” Jesus values time with those whom he loves. He brought the disciples with him to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56) leading into the darkest hours of his life. He values time with you in prayer and in his Word, just the same. Jesus included his closest companions through the ups and downs of his life — that is how we best love the people in our lives that need quality time.
Now a person with this primary love language is not asking for extravagant gifts weekly, but greatly appreciates being given something that was thoughtfully picked out just for them. Jesus, and salvation because of his death, is the greatest gift we could have ever received (Romans 6:23). No gift could ever top that, but again, modeling the way we love after the way that Jesus loves means prioritizing the needs and desires of the people in our lives.
Jesus is our perfect example of the love languages. Whether we want to love our significant others better, or just our coworkers, Jesus is our model. He is the epitome of love in action. 1 John 4:19 says that “We love because He first loved us.” We are his dearly loved children, and so we are to imitate Christ (Ephesians 5) in the way that we love others.
Love is an action. It is not going to the prom or the gushy nonsense found in rom-coms. It is not the butterflies we get when we see that special someone or a cute post on Instagram. It is not supposed to be easy and mindless. It is intentional and sacrificial. It is thoughtful and selfless. It looks and sounds like Christ.