Reverend Tina Burgess
In recent years I’ve been very taken with the books of popular Christian psychologist Gary Chapman and his work on ‘Love Languages’. Love languages, as Chapman describes them, are those ways in which we all express and experience love in our significant relationships, be it between romantic partners or parents and children.
According to Chapman, there are five main love languages which we all ‘speak’ whether we know it or not - ways that we are geared to interpret as being loved. They are:
Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time and Physical Touch.
Out of these five, Chapman says, we each have a primary love language which speaks more deeply to us than all the others…and its by knowing and ‘speaking’ the love languages of those who we are in a significant relationship with, that we communicate to them that they are loved and that we love them. And vice versa for ourselves. When our significant ‘other’ speaks our love language, we feel safe and secure in the knowledge that we are loved.
Even if we have a different love language to our partner or child, when we are speaking their love language and they are speaking ours, it’s a win-win situation – a mutually loving relationship; a way to prevent our love from dying.
Using this idea, Chapman has gone on to write a book about the love languages of God. One Google reviewer writes this:
“I have read a number of Gary Chapman's books, but this one really stands out from the rest. The reason is because it's not dealing with human to human relationships, but rather with our relationship to and with the God of the universe.
God the Father incarnated and displayed words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch through the life and ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ. Likewise we can give back to God using all 5 of these methods.”
God in Christ Jesus speaks all of these love languages to us – but there’s one which I think Chapman has overlooked, and that’s the love language of self-sacrifice.
John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” and Philippians 2:7 says, “ …he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross.”
Christ displayed this kind of self-sacrifice for those who did not love him and who were powerless to save themselves. Romans 12:6 tells us, “But God proves his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
And this is important because we need to remember that it is all about Him and not about us. It all depends on who Jesus is and what he has done for us… and as his followers, we are being Christlike when we sacrifice ourselves for those who do not love us or even thank us. When we are sacrificing something of ourselves for the good of another or for God, we are the most like Christ and the most unlike the self.
The work of Chapman’s love languages provides genuine help for growth in relationships and I would definitely recommend reading his books but walking with Christ requires us to walk the way of self-sacrifice – like he did, and in terms of glorifying Him, this is the language that speaks the loudest.