agape love, conscience, diverse wisdom, Golden Rule, healthy and hurting people, Holy Spirit, human condition, human relations, instinct, love languages, marriages, right living, romantic relationships
When We Practice Real Love
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us. ~ 1 John 3:18-24, MSG
Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. ~ Ephesians 5:25, MSG
There are many how-to books on understanding and expressing our love for our spouse, our children, our friends, our parents, our coworkers, and so forth. Perhaps the most popular how-to book on understanding and expressing our love for others, at least according to many Christians, is New York Times bestselling author Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (1992, 1995). Note: This blog entry is not a review of his book!
Now while this blogger will agree that Chapman touches on something very true in his book, and while this blogger will admit that he does give some realistic ways of putting in action the five basic love languages that he describes, this blogger also has to say that Chapman’s book has many limitations. The one limitation that sticks in this blogger’s craw is that Chapman implies that there are only five basic love languages. On the contrary, love that is God’s Agápe Love will speak to believers in many languages (read David Powlison’s Love Speaks Many Languages Fluently—a book review of Chapman’s The Five Love Languages…).
Powlison’s critique is lovingly brutal. Unfortunately, Powlison has to be. Moreover, this blogger agrees with Powlison’s title to his review. The God kind of Love (Agápe Love) truly does speak fluently in many languages.
Without doubt God’s Agápe Love is so much more than giving the people we love compliments—Words of Affirmation. His Love is so much more than us spending time doing things with the people we love—Quality Time. The God kind of Love is so much more than us making sure that the people we love receive gifts on their birthday, anniversary, graduation, wedding, or any other special occasions for gifts, and God’s Love is so much more than us just giving ourselves as a gift to the people we love—Receiving Gifts. Then too, God’s Love is so much more than us doing what would bless others that we normally aren’t doing for them—Acts of Service. Lastly, God’s Agápe Love is so much more than us sitting close to the people we love, or hugging them, or holding hands with them, or gently touching them—Physical Touch. Again, while Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch truly are basic love languages, Chapman has left out so many other necessary basic love languages.
There is no way that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator God did not foreknow that the human beings He would create not only would come in all shapes, sizes, and colors but also would possess different temperaments, personalities, desires, interests, experiences, and so forth. That’s why there can be no doubt that He absolutely decided before creating mankind all the basic Love languages His children would need, before He put His Agápe Love inside them. That is why God’s Agápe Love includes, but is not limited to, the following basic Love languages: self-sacrifice, long-sufferance, kindness, compassion, love, devotion, sensitivity, friendliness, generosity, cheerfulness, tenderness, gentleness, likability, self-control, praise, good wishes, tributes, support, service, helpfulness, cooperation, forgiveness, mercy, grace, blessings, nobility, accountability, redemption, hopefulness, trustworthiness, honesty, dependability, consistency, holiness, righteousness, decency, goodness, agreeableness, hopefulness, faith, optimism, acceptance, willingness, fairness, confidence, boldness, strength, steadfastness, endlessness, ongoingness, and so forth. Without mentioning all of these Love languages, as well as those not stated here that definitely are included in God’s Agápe Love, Chapman’s book just comes off as a long informative essay on how husbands and wives should scratch their mates’ backs in order to get their mates to scratch their backs too.
Additionally, even though Chapman’s five love languages are touted as some kind of magical cure for the husbands and wives who aren’t being loved the way they want to be or expected to be, his book only tends to point out the lustful worldly side of human love instead of the pure spiritual side of God’s Agápe Love. Even so, the funny thing is that Chapman really hasn’t said anything that is unknown.
Put differently, Chapman isn’t sharing any secret to the only kind of love that lasts (Agápe Love), because everything he mentions in The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate God has mentioned first in His Holy Bible. In fact, readers only have to look, for example, at God’s Golden Rule and see that Chapman has no corner on the market, when it comes to expressing how people want to and even expect to be loved or treated. Furthermore, if there is any secret Chapman is revealing it is the ways people abuse the well-known principle Christ Jesus gives—the biblical principle that everyone should follow in order to obtain success in any and every kind of activity or situation. This biblical principle has come to be known as the Golden Rule. The Lord says:
Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get. ~ Matthew 7:12, MSG
In other words, in the Golden Rule, the Lord is confirming that hidden within the human nature is our instinct to want to treat people better so that they will treat us better. Moreover, the Lord indicates that, without exception, this Golden Rule (principle) applies to every single human situation, including all romantic relationships. However, in the last part of verse 12 and the two verses that follow, the Lord lets us know just why most of us fail to behave according to what we instinctively know is right. Christ Jesus says:
…Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get. Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. ~ Matthew 7:12b-14, MSG
In another English translation, we read:
…This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. ~ Matthew 7:12b-14, NLT
The bottom line is that the Golden Rule embodies the entire Holy Bible’s teaching on the holy and righteous way we should live. However, according to what Christ Jesus says before Matthew 7:12, in particular, what He says in verses 1-5 and 7-11, and what He says after verse 12, specifically verses 13-14, there can be no doubt that without the help of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift inside of ONLY born-again believers in Christ Jesus, none of us can keep the Law or what the prophets of God teach/reveal about holy and right living, no matter if God’s Law is in our conscience. For as Christ Jesus says, the path that leads to life, or the Golden Rule path, is not an easy path to take or an easy path to stay on, once it is chosen. That’s why so few of us actually carry out the Golden Rule.
The harsh truth is that it is much easier to ignore others and live an inconsistent life, which for many of us means choosing to travel the wide path that leads to a life that has us choosing to point out specks in the lives of other people, even though we know that we have logs in our own life. For the few of us who find and choose Christ Jesus’ narrow Golden Rule path, some of us often fall off this path, whenever our mind tells us it is okay to forget about the Golden Rule, and we listen to our mind’s voice instead of to the still small voice within our spirits (hearts). As a result of our disobedience, we too will choose to point out the speck that is in the lives of other people, even though we know that we have a log in our own life.
Concerning Chapman’s reason why many people fail to carry out the Golden Rule, Powlison says:
Obviously, the most basic violations of the Golden Rule occur when we simply mistreat others, doing and saying malicious things we’d hate to have done and said to us. But perhaps the most common misunderstanding of the Golden Rule is that even in attempting to love others we do what we would want. It’s a less heinous form of self-centeredness, more clumsy and ignorant than hateful. Such clumsiness and ignorance is the problem that 5LL, at its best, actually addresses. (Though Chapman makes the further claim that a person will mistreat other people—violate them, act hatefully—because others, out of ignorance of the right love language, haven’t loved that person and filled his tank of needs….) ~ The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Fall 2002, p. 3
However, Powlison adds the following criticism about Chapman’s book:
The 5LL model fails the class ‘Human Nature 101.’ Like all secular interpretations of human psychology (even when lightly Christianized), it makes some good observations and offers some half-decent advice (of the sort that self-effort can sometimes follow). But it doesn’t really understand human psychology. That basic misunderstanding has systematic distorting and misleading effects. Fallenness not only brings ignorance about how best to love others; it brings a perverse unwillingness and inability to love. It ingrains the perception that our lusts are in fact needs, empty places inside where others have disappointed us. The empty emotional tank construct is congenial to our fallen instincts, not transformative. It leaves what we instinctively want as an unquestionable good that must somehow be fulfilled. It not only leaves fundamental self-interest unchallenged, it plays to self-interest. Chapman gives tax collectors, gentiles, and sinners something they can do on their own that might work to make them happier. The case studies end with, ‘My love tank has never felt so full and I’ve never been happier.’ It sounds more like opiates for the masses than The Revolution needed to bring in the kingdom of solid joys and lasting treasures. Chapman’s model is premised on a give-to-get economy: ‘I will give to fill your love tank. But in the back of my mind I’m always considering whether and when I’ll get my own tank filled.’(p. 5)
So then, not only is the Holy Bible the original love languages’ source that not only provides many more love languages than the 5 Chapman mentions but also the Holy Bible is the original source in which the secret to the true kind of love that lasts (Agápe Love) is found, as not one of Chapman’s 5 love languages is sufficient in and of itself. Then too, the Holy Bible is the only book that has been the bestselling book for ages, selling an estimated 6 billion copies in various translations!
Since God’s Holy Bible has the 5 love languages and more, and since God via His gift of the Holy Spirit is the One who makes what the Holy Bible says about the most beneficial way to pursue God’s “good gifts” and the most beneficial way to seek how we should use our “good gifts,” once we have received them (both natural gifts and spiritual gifts, including the gift of sex and the institution of marriage), why then do so many believers in Christ Jesus “love” what Chapman has written to the point that they have recommended his book to other believers and/or have held countless book discussions about his book? What is it about Chapman’s book that has moved famous talk show personalities to have Chapman on their shows to speak to their audiences about his book? More important, what is it about Chapman’s book that moves pulpit ministers (and other Christian spiritual leaders) to use in their sermons or to teach in their Bible Study classes Chapman’s 5 love languages, as if his book were a tried and true supplement to the Word of God?
Perhaps Chapman’s book appeals to so many, because it is easy to read and understand. Maybe people “love” his book because he is telling them something they never really thought about before they read his book. However, where spiritual leaders who are doing God’s ministry work are concerned, it appears to this blogger that they prefer to use “half-decent advice” that doesn’t address in full detail the human condition, as well as doesn’t point to Christ Jesus—doesn’t explain why mankind needs a Savior. It also appears to this blogger that they prefer to use “half-decent advice” that doesn’t point to the mighty workings of the Holy Spirit.
God gives His Holy Spirit to every born again, saved, justified, and being sanctified believer for Him to reveal Divine Truths, as well as to teach, to comfort, and to guide them. Once the Holy Spirit is inside each believer, He then gives the believer God’s additional spiritual “good gifts,” which include all of the diverse wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (both natural and spiritual) that he or she needs to live a holy and righteous life on this Earth, and in the Kingdom of God.
The bottom line is human relations are difficult, especially sexually romantic relationships such as marriages. Because human relations are difficult that’s why everybody needs help (needs wisdom, needs knowledge, and needs understanding) with his or her relationship(s).
God freely offers His spiritual help and diverse wisdom, knowledge, and understanding (both natural and spiritual) to every person who has the God kind of Faith to listen to what He says. This kind of listening involves having a receptive heart (spirit). This kind of listening also involves hearing the Gospel from any or all of Christ Jesus’ called, appointed and anointed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (shepherds), and teachers—His spiritual human gifts that He gives to the Body of Christ.
Because there are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (shepherds), and teachers everywhere, no one has to wait until he or she is in an organized “church” setting before he or she can hear (or read) what God says in His Word about His Agápe Love’s diverse love languages, and the tried and true (trustworthy, dependable) way men and women should apply the wisdom inherent in His copious love languages. The main way men and women should apply the wisdom inherent in His numerous love languages is by keeping Christ Jesus’ Golden Rule. For this reason, Christians, especially spiritual leaders, always must point healthy and hurting people to the loving and caring Lord, because He positively is the only One who not only desires but also is more than able to bless every area of everyone’s life.