This is the third installment in our BETTER TOGETHER series. On Wednesday nights I am walking the teenagers through the process of seeing their relationships through a biblical lens. Once we start seeing all our interactions through God’s will, then we are better prepared to make those relationships AWESOME.
So far we’ve looked at the fact that we were all created for community and togetherness. But a little thing called sin entered the world and brought separation where there was once intimacy. The remedy for the disease of sin and separation is LOVE. And we introduced the four levels of love: 1) I love me for my own benefit. 2) I love you for my benefit. 3) I love you for your benefit. 4) I love me for your benefit. When Jesus tells us to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” there is an implied love for self. We must practice some form of self-love and self-care in order to benefit others.
Second, we learned the difference between reacting and responding. So often we end up being controlled by our emotions and reacting out of fear or self-preservation. Something happens in a relationship that triggers our “Fight or Flight” reaction – which often leads to the very outcome we were hoping to avoid. But with training and practice we can become better at keeping our emotions under our control, slowing down our anger-reaction, and responding appropriately.
This week we are going to take a closer look at what it means to “Love your neighbor.”
We are probably all familiar with a teaching of Jesus commonly known as “The Golden Rule.” You’ve probably heard some version of it. You may have even been taught it by your parents and/or school teachers.
Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus tells his followers, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12 | NLT).
It’s otherwise paraphrased like this: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
And that’s a good standard for children (and adults!) to latch onto. Don’t steal because you wouldn’t want someone to steal from you. Don’t hit, because you wouldn’t want to be hit. Talk to someone who is lonely, because you would want someone to come be your friend if you were alone. Be kind and generous toward others, because you want them to treat you the same way.
This is a good standard for ethical behavior.
But have you ever heard of “The Platinum Rule?” (At least that’s what I call it.) It’s a step above The Golden Rule.
Jesus is with his disciples on the last night before his crucifixion. He is about to be betrayed, arrested, beaten, and nailed to a cross. As he is speaking to them at dinner, he gives them this instruction: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13 | NLT).
So what’s the difference between these two commands? We’ll get to that below, but first I think we need to explore this word LOVE a bit more.
It’s really hard to define the word Love. Google says it’s “an intense feeling of deep affection.” But we all know that it’s more “you know it when you see/feel/experience it” kind of words. Often the best way to talk about love is through images and metaphors.
**Much of what comes next is based on the work of Gary Chapman and his book The Five Love Languages**
GAS TANKS AND INTERNATIONAL CRUISES
Love is like a gas tank. You have to fill your car’s gas tank if you want to be able to go places. The car works best when the gas tank is full. Some people wait until the low fuel light is on before they fill up. Others panic and hit the nearest station as soon as the gauge hits the 1/4 mark. But no matter what, if your gas tank is empty, your car is not going anywhere.
Picture a tank inside yourself. We’ll call it the “love tank.” Sometimes your love tank is FULL, and life is going great. Your relationships are firing on all cylinders. You feel comfortable and confident. But then you notice those feelings beginning to diminish. Sometimes you feel like you are the one putting all the effort into the relationship without getting anything in return. Your tank is running low without being refilled. This can lead to all sorts of problems down the road if something doesn’t change. You cannot give love if your love tank runs dry.
So how do we refill our love tank? Stick with me. We’re getting there.
Love can also be like a trip on an international cruise ship. I was on a cruise once (and only once so far). We were taking a cruise of the Greek Isles – Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, and others. There were people on that ship from the USA, Germany, Greece, Italy, China, and half a dozen other places. Our cruise director was fluent in just about every major language spoken on that boat. She was incredible! None of us could communicate with the Chinese or German passengers, except maybe through charades and bad sign language. There could be no real connection because we were not speaking the same language.
LEARNING YOUR LANGUAGE
According to Chapman, each of us is most “fluent” in one of five “love languages.” Our primary language is how we feel most loved by others, AND it’s how we are most comfortable giving love. When someone loves us well in our primary love language, our love tanks are filled, and we can pour love back into that relationship. But if love is withheld according to our primary love language, we can feel hurt, unloved, or even betrayed.
The five love languages, according to Chapman, are
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Receiving Gifts
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
This video explains it really well:
Here’s the official rundown of each love language. What do you think resonates most with you? Do you think you know what your primary language is?
WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby – makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Quality Time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.
ACTS OF SERVICE
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thought, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Physical touch fosters a sense of security and belonging in any relationship.
So how do you find your love language? There are a few different ways.
- What hurts you the most? What makes you feel most unloved? words of insult or degradation? being around someone who is always checking their phone? when someone doesn’t bother to help you or even makes more work for you to do? when someone forgets your birthday or other important dates? when someone cuts themselves off from you physically, not hugging or holding hands?
- What do you ask for (or want) the most? do you wish people could compliment you more? do you want more hang-out time? do you wish you had more help around the house? do you want to be surprised with little random gifts? do you want to cuddle close on the couch?
- What do you do to express love most often? are you always encouraging others and building them up? do you go out of your way to have lunch or coffee with your friends? do you jump right in and help people with their tasks? do you pick up a little something for your loved one while you’re out at the store? are you always giving hugs, pats on the back, or high fives?
- Take the assessment!
- He encouraged and affirmed Peter, the Roman Centurian, the Woman at the Well, and others.
- He took time to share meals with tax collectors and sinners. He made time for everyone.
- He blessed people with gifts of healing and even food.
- He washed the disciples feet. “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve.”
- He touched and embraced a leper, a dead girl, children, and disciples.