Imagine this: a husband wants to show his wife how much he loves her, so he buys her things: jewelry, flowers, candy, lots of little gifts of things he thinks are cute. He loves to shop; he has the money so he buys her more.
The wife is a minimalist. She hates junk, doesn’t like candy, and wears no extra jewelry. She tries to remind herself that her husband is trying to show her he loves her, but her irritation increases with each unwanted gift. She begins to wonder if he really cares for her at all because he doesn’t seem concerned with what she really wants.
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a very popular book several years ago to discuss situations like this. He called it Love Languages and in it he talks about how different people have different ways of expressing love and how if we truly love someone we will learn their love language and use it to communicate our love.
God also has a love language
God expressed His love for us by sending Jesus to die for us, that is the core reality of the Christian faith. In gratitude for that, we want to show our love back to God, but here is where we are challenged—what can we do to express love in a meaningful way to the Creator and Sustainer of life?
You get to know a person’s love language by getting to know him or her. We get to know the way God wants to be love by reading his word. In his Word, he’s very clear about how we should express love to him:
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. (John 14: 21-24, NIV)
We show God we love him by obeying his teaching and we learn what he teaches us by spending time in his Word.
God’s love language may be different from what we expect
It’s so important to get to know God’s Word deeply and personally because there can be lots of things that might seem good or religious, things that are done in religious settings that aren’t right for you. In the book of 1 Samuel, Saul decided that he had a better plan for serving God than what he had been commanded to do by the prophet Samuel. Instead of destroying the Amalekites and all that belonged to them as God commanded he brought back animals for a big religious celebration and sacrifice.
It might have looked impressive; it might have been a commonly accepted religious practice, but it was not what God commanded Saul to do. When Samuel arrived, he confronted Saul with these words:
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.” 1 Sam. 15:22-23
We don’t decide what we want to do to obey and by obeying show our love for God. God decides. Our challenge is to spend time in his Word, getting to know it and our Lord well so that we can hear his voice and obey him in the specific situations.