It’s funny how people define love. Ask 20 people on the street what love looks like and you will get as many different answers. Some define love by compatibility- shared interests, dreams, or personalities. The entire online dating phenomena is built on this premise. They want a “best friend” with which to live life to the fullest. Others define love by experience. Love is merely the byproduct of personal fulfillment and happiness. They seek to “double their pleasure”, or at least escape loneliness, through relationships with others. Everyone is speaking a different language of love, and in the end it just ends up creating a lot of noise and confusion.
We, as those created by God, must look to Him to provide for us a common language of love. When we look away from His revelation in Scripture and seek wisdom and authority elsewhere, we, like the people of Babel, suffer the confusion and disunity that comes from many languages. God’s Word always brings clarity, unity, and peace.
The first language God uses to speak love to His people is covenant. Throughout the Scriptures, God’s love for His people is always seen within the context of covenant faithfulness. The wonderful Hebrew word used to describe this is “hesed”. For the sake of time, let me simply define this word as a “loyal love”. [For a more in depth look at this word, see Anthony Carter’s book on the subject.] The beautiful thread that weaves its way through Scripture from beginning to end is the covenantal promise of God: “I will be your God and you will be My people.” Moses puts it this way in Deuteronomy 7:9, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” In Jeremiah 31, the LORD speaks these words to His people, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”
To know the love of God, we must first look to His unwavering faithfulness towards us as His people. No one can snatch us from His firm grip. He remains for us and will never again be against us. Nothing in all creation can separate us from His faithful, loyal, everlasting covenantal love that was established in Christ Jesus. Therefore, we must learn to speak the language of love towards others through covenant faithfulness. Our loyalty to our wives, our friends, our children, and other believers must not waver. We cannot truly love apart from faithfulness. Love is steadfast. It is not blown by the winds of circumstances or opportunity or emotion.
The second language God uses to speak love to His people is sacrifice. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends…” (John 15:13). Paul instructed husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (see Eph.5:25). In response to a request from certain disciples for special honor, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk.10:45) Then, on the night before His crucifixion, as He was eating one last Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus stooped down and washed their feet. He was teaching them over and over again that true love, God’s love, is a sacrificial love.
True love cannot survive among thorns of selfishness. In fact, it is the sin of selfishness that often leads to the sin of unfaithfulness. Love becomes a powerful word that we wield to get what our own hearts desire rather than a word of promise to deny ourselves daily for the sake of another. Love stoops low in order to lift another up. Love denies itself that another might receive honor. Love dies that another might live. We cannot speak the language of love through prideful, self-serving, childish lips.
The third language God uses to speak love to His people is grace. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom.5:6-8) Can there be a greater language of love than the language of grace? To receive undeserved love is to receive the highest and greatest love. To be loved when you are unlovable speaks love to your heart like nothing else. God shows us the breadth of His love through covenant faithfulness. He shows us the height of His love through sacrifice. And He shows us the depth of His love through grace.
You will begin to see the extravagance of God’s love when you begin to more fully see the depravity of your own heart. God could not love you apart from grace. You had nothing within yourself that merited that love. You hated Him, ignored Him, disobeyed Him, and robbed Him of His honor and glory. He chose you to be His own, preserved your life when He could have taken it at the very first sin against Him, gave you eyes to see His beauty and a heart that loves what you see, called you to Himself, put away your guilt, adopted you as His very own child, and promised you an inheritance far beyond anything you could ever imagine. Jesus said it this way, “He that is forgiven the greatest loves the most.” We will speak the language of love to others when we learn to give grace in the way we have received grace. Give the ones you love exactly what they don’t deserve…that’s grace! And remember that you don’t deserve anything good from them either.
As we speak love through faithfulness, sacrifice, and grace, we will find the friendship, happiness, and peace we were looking for all along.