The Five Love Languages is a popular book by Gary Chapman. The book explains how people differ in the way they give and receive love. This principle comes up often in my counseling sessions with couples. Essentially, people tend to give love in the same form that they prefer to receive love. After all, aren’t we supposed to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us?”
The key is discovering how your partner prefers to receive love. Does your partner primarily prefer gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), or physical touch (intimacy)? After discovering the answer, one is then better able to provide the kind of love one’s partner desires the most.
The love language principle has helped many couples realize that, although they meant well, they were “spinning their wheels” trying to actively love each other. For instance, it is counterproductive to constantly buy gifts for a partner that actually desires more physical touch. It soon becomes evident that, “You don’t really know me that well, do you?” The partner can only get so much consolation by thinking, “Oh well, it’s the thought that counts.” Genuine thought seeks to know a person intimately, including likes and dislikes.
Chapman’s book helps partners discover from each other what their actual likes and dislikes are. This removes the assumptions and “mind reading” games that plague so many relationships. The best way to really know your partner is to get the information from your partner. This helps build intimacy. It also helps to shift the focus away from “self” and towards “other.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” becomes, “Learn your partner’s love language as you would have your partner learn your love language.” In other words, the question shifts from, “What would I like?” to, “What would my partner like?” The idea seems simple enough, but it is not so readily implemented in so many relationships. We tend to fashion a relationship into our own version of how it “should” be. We tend to give love the way we want to give love.
Now, consider the following phrases:
- Accept Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior.
- It’s all about a relationship with Jesus.
- Many in that day will say, “Lord, Lord,” but I will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
Just as in a marriage, it is possible to accept Jesus and desire to have a relationship with Him without really knowing Him. We can have a relationship with Jesus that exists on our own terms. What is the “love language” of Jesus? We can talk about how much we love Him, but the more important question becomes, “How does Jesus want us to love Him?”
Do we look for a place of worship that “feels right” to us, or do we look for a place of worship that worships the way Jesus desires us to worship? The implication here is that Jesus may actually desire a form of worship that does not feel right to you, because it is not your love language, it is His!
The challenge for married partners with different love languages is that it may feel very awkward and uncomfortable to switch languages. Hopefully, more time and practice will make it more comfortable. Nevertheless, the act of love is not based on how comfortable it feels to you. It is an act of love because of how it feels to your partner. The same holds true for how we love Jesus. How Jesus wants us to love Him, is not about how it feels to us!
Shopping around for a church that “feels right” is like loving your spouse the way that you like to be loved. The key is in finding which church was established by Jesus and worships Him the way that He wants to be worshiped. We tend to do the opposite. We tend to look for a church (or create a new one) that worships Jesus the way we want to worship Jesus.
Jesus only established one Church, not many. Jesus did not provide a shopping mall where we browse around looking for the church or the theology that best suits our tastes. Jesus never asked people how they preferred to love Him. He always had a “love me or leave me” approach. Our job is to love Jesus on His terms, not ours. This means we must follow and obey the Church Jesus established. It doesn’t always feel comfortable. Sometimes it can feel downright abominable (just read John chapter six and you’ll see what I mean).
The “love language” of Jesus can be found in His one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church. In particular, the Scriptures and the Seven Sacraments display His way of loving and being loved. By accepting His Church, one fully “accepts the Lord Jesus as personal Lord and Savior” and “has a personal relationship with Jesus.” Through His Church we learn to fully love Jesus according to His very own love language, not ours.