What is God's Love Language?

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Published on:
March 31, 2024

How do you express love to those you most cherish?

One of the most important aspects to any intentional and meaningful relationship is the value of loving our significant other. And not only loving them, but loving them in a way that they will uniquely value and appreciate. Will they appreciate tender words in a card or time spent with a quiet getaway? A lavish romantic gift (A giant teddy bear? Chocolates? Jewelry?); or having the car washed and the house tidied? The longer we are in an intimate relationship with our spouse, the more we learn what is most deeply meaningful to them - speaking their “love language”.

In Scripture, the Greek language is so detailed when it comes to love that it has separate words, not one specific word for love. We can see 2 of these in John 21 when Jesus is restoring Peter. Christ uses the contrast of phileo (φιλέω) vs agape (ἀγαπάω) when asking Peter, “Do you love me?”, each time using a different Greek word for love to cover the spectrum of the weightiness of the word calling him to a deeper relationship with Christ. We see here and throughout Scripture that God experiences love and desires our love. This is the basis and foundation for why we love (1 John 4:19).

So, what is God’s “love language”?

Years ago as I was reading through the New Testament in the NLT, I came to John 14:15, where Jesus says, “If you love me, obey My commandments”. Some versions say, “You will keep my commandments”. At that time, I was in college and the big thing going around was love languages. It struck me in that moment that God’s love language is obedience. Many of us want to come to Him with a sacrifice saying, “God, here is what I will give up for you”, almost like Cain bringing his sacrifice before the Lord. Now sacrifice is a huge part of the Christian life. But, if God is not the one directing us as to what to sacrifice, how are we any different than Cain in our offering? Or how are we any different than King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22, who lost the kingship because he was unwilling to do the one thing he had been instructed to do?

Words like “obedience” and “submission” are not popular in our world today. I notice that when we read and preach in our churches from Ephesians 5:22 about wives being submissive (and submitting mutually to one another), we tend to gloss over the submission part and go straight “Husbands love your wives as Christ and His Church”. Is this because we are offended by this passage and others like it?

 CS Lewis’ science fiction novel That Hideous Strength records a conversation between the interplanetary Director Ransom and Jane, a woman he is counseling with marital issues: 

“What would you – what would the people you are talking of – say about a case like that?” 

“I will tell you if you really want to know,” said the Director. 

“Please,” said Jane reluctantly.

“They would say,” he answered, “that you do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love because you never attempted obedience.” (Lewis 145)

what form of love have we embraced?

Perhaps in our offense, we have allowed a lesser form of love to creep into our values and even to allow the world to define and promote a lesser form. What form have we embraced? What form has your church embraced? Submission and obedience are our part of the Biblical perspective of love… not out of duty to Christ, but out of desire to please Him. How many marriages would be transformed by this perspective where both spouses truly desire love for each other and not a selfish lesser form of love? Christ willingly gives of Himself, sacrificing Himself for His Church. His part is sacrifice; our part is obedience. Yes, we sacrifice for Christ as we follow Him, but it is out of obedience, not our selfishly choosing how or what we sacrifice.  

Our worldly cultures try to teach us what love means and looks like. But when we look at love as defined by the world and love as defined by Christ, we have two distinct and different understandings. The world’s definitions and views on love are dominated by the curse (Genesis 3), such that love is defined and ruled by that curse and its effects. Sin clouds and twists this concept of love into something that reflects sin itself rather than what we see in Scripture reflecting Christ. It is selfish in nature and self-seeking—how we want to be treated, how we want to feel, our own rights and desires, and our independence.

In contrast, Jesus’ love and sacrifice we see in John 14 assumes His rule and reign in our lives. It’s about us desiring His rule in our lives as Paul shares in Romans 8:5 - 9. As we allow Christ to change our desires to what He desires we notice loving Him becomes easier and easier. This is what it means to live now in the Kingdom of God. As we go about our daily lives on mission fulfilling what Christ commanded us, we further the Kingdom of God through sharing His love transforming people, places, and situations and lifting the curse through the power of the Holy Spirit in us. The curse of sin is all around us, but God has given us the means through what He did defeating death and the curse. The mission of God is to redeem and reconcile all things back to Himself. The mission of the Church is to fulfill what Christ commanded. We make disciples because this is how we love God. 

As a friend of God and true disciple, we can walk into situations and see God’s transformation because we know Him and what He is doing. Our eyes can be opened to see how God wants to transform. Suddenly we have new power to love God and others as His Spirit works through us. But it starts with learning to love Him and what He desires. We need His rule and reign in our lives. What have we gained if at the end Jesus says I never knew you? 

  • Are we desiring Him? 
  • Have we bought into a lesser form of love by separating its parts? 
  • Do we want what He wants?
  • Do we have a heart of love or is something else there? If you struggle to love God or others perhaps something is stealing your affection. 
  • Are our churches and ministries lacking in a love for people? 
  • Do we struggle to operate out of love? (There’s a reason 1 Corinthians 13 is placed between 1 Corinthians 12 and 14.)  
  • Do we see His love for others? 
  • Do we want to see the best brought out in people? 
  • How is God calling you to speak His love language of obedience today?

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