This is the first of five messages inspired by the book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.
Read: 1 John 4:7-16 NRSV
God is love. We are able to love God because God first loved us. We are able to love others because God first loved us.
Loving relationships are so important, Jesus commanded us to love one another
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:29-31; Matthew 22:37-40) Love flowing upward to God and love flowing outward to others. This is the faithful, cross shaped life of a follower of Jesus Christ.
On the night of the Last Supper, the night in which Jesus gave himself up for us, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 NRSV)
Loving others is a sign of our faith in God and proof we are followers of Jesus.
If all this is true, why are relationships so hard? How many marriages blow up every year? How many family members are estranged from one another? How many friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, congregation members are at each other’s throats?
We live in a broken world. The meaning of love gets all twisted.
(1) I love potato chips
(2) I love my cat
(3) I love my husband
(4) I love being on vacation
(5) I love my children
(6) I love my job
No wonder we’re confused.
Dr. Gary Chapman investigated this idea of brokenness and miscommunication in relationships. After much research, he identified 5 different ways in which persons best receive love. He calls them the 5 Love Languages:
(1) Words of Affirmation
(2) Quality Time
(3) Receiving Gifts
(4) Acts of Service
(5) Physical Touch
Here’s how it plays out: A dad works long hours to provide everything his son could possibly want. The son just wants to spend time with his dad. The dad loves the son but the son doesn’t receive it because they’re speaking two different love languages. They might as well be speaking Japanese and German. The dad is showering the kid with gifts, but the kid feels most loved when someone spends quality time with him. (Remember the classic song, The Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin?)
If we’re going to love others as Jesus commands, then we’re going to need to learn to communicate love in the way that’s easiest for the other person to hear and receive. That’s why we’ll be spending the next few weeks learning about love languages and how to best love one another. Dr. Chapman’s book was originally written for married couples, but these principles apply to all types of relationships.
At the top of your sermon note insert, you’ll find information on Dr. Chapman’s book and a great free website where you can discover your love languages. Once you do, be sure to share the information with your friends and loved ones so they’ll know how best to love you. (Click here for the insert we used –> 5 Love Languages, Words of Affirmation Insert)
To discover your love language:
(1) Answer the profile questions in the back of the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Available as an e-book, too.
(2) Answer the profile questions online for free at www.5lovelanguages.com
Love Language #1: Words of Affirmation
Words are important because they are powerful and creative.
God creates the heavens and the earth by speaking- and God said, “Let there be light!” (Genesis 1) Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. (John 1) Words are powerful and creative. Words of Affirmation prove this by being inspiring and encouraging. How many of you have been inspired by the words of a teacher or coach? Felt encouraged at just the right time by the words of a trusted friend? How many of you have a letter or a card you have saved because the words made you feel loved and special. (Words of affirmation can be written or spoken.)
William James said that possibly the deepest human need is the need to feel appreciated.
Jesus models this for us in Matthew 16:13-18. (NRSV)
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Jesus understands words are powerful and creative. What we say about another person, how we name that person, creates perception. Perception has the power to create reality. Remember how Ms. Aibileen in The Help kept speaking words of affirmation to little Skeeter. “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” She was naming the child. That little girl believed those words and then lived them as an adult.
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
I am so thankful for Simon Peter because he makes so many mistakes but remains faithful and useful to God. He takes up the role as spokesperson for the disciples. So often he sticks his foot in his mouth, speaking too quickly, jumping in to try to walk on water, in the heat of the moment cutting off a bystander’s ear. But this time Simon Peter gets it right and look how Jesus affirms him.
17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
Yes Simon! You understand. You’re in tune with God, hearing from God and speaking God’s truth. Well done! How would you feel if you were affirmed by Jesus like this! But there’s more…
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
This is the moment where Jesus gives Simon a new name- Peter which means rock. Peter, I’m going to build my church on people like you- people with big hearts and big mouths who jump on in and take risks for the Kingdom of God. In the days ahead, Peter would deny Jesus, but in the end, Peter would become a leader of the early church. We will never know how important this moment of affirmation was in Peter fulfilling God’s plan for his life.
Dr. Chapman reminds us that affirmation and encouragement require empathy, seeing the world from the other person’s perspective. (Loving your neighbor as yourself) We must first learn what is important to them. Only then can we give encouragement. With verbal encouragement, we are trying to communicate, “I know. I care. I am with you and for you.” We are trying to show that we believe in them and their abilities. We are giving credit and praise. Most of us have more potential than we will ever develop. What holds us back is often a lack of courage. (The 5 Love Languages, p. 42, adapted)
Examples of Words of Affirmation:
Years ago I was a music director at a church. The church pianist was a grand, southern lady named Joanne. One day a little girl, only 6 or 7, came into church wearing glasses for the first time. You could tell she was uneasy. Miss Joanne walked up to her, bent down to her level and said, “Hello beautiful.” The little girl lit up.
Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” I don’t know about you, but I need compliments more often than that.
How do you feel when someone says, “I’m proud of you” or “You’re going to do great on that test.” One way to fulfill Jesus’ command to love one another is to encourage one anothe; to literally build their courage through words of affirmation.
(3) Kind Words
Some would call this having good manners. Acknowledging another person’s presence with “Hello” or “Good to see you.”
Kind words are also about the tone we use when we speak. Which request do you think would be better received as love?
(a) Could you make that yummy soup again?
(b) When are we going to have a decent meal around here?
Both sentences are requesting the same thing, but in very different ways. In loving others, it’s not just about what we say, but how we say it.
Acknowledge effort and accomplishment. This is especially powerful when done in front of others. “Great job landing that new account.”
Dr. Chapman writes, “Life’s deepest meaning is not found in accomplishments, but in relationships.” God smiles at our accomplishments, but what God most desires from us is a relationship. That relationship is not based on what we can do, but just the fact that God loves us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16) We become God’s children through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ, not through what we can do or have done.
As followers of Christ, we share the love God extends to us. This is a radical idea since the conversation in our country right now is so negative and critical. What would happen to the emotional climate of a household, a workplace, a neighborhood, a congregation, if folks heard genuine words of affirmation regularly? What would happen if we lived Jesus’ command to love one another and shared what we have found?
Encourage the congregation to take their insert home for further study. Close with time for silent reflection and prayer using the Prayer for the Faithful use of Words as found on the insert.
Know you are always welcome at our congregation, Community United Methodist Church in DeBary, FL. We worship on Sundays at 8am, 9:20am, and 11am. Dress casual and bring the kids.
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