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Loving across languages

By Global Frontier Missions

Love is in the air… at least, it is in the grocery store where I can venture past an aisle of chocolates and breeze through balloons and roses on my way to the deli.  I’m not seeing very many expressions of love on social media, though.

We must not take our example from Hallmark or Facebook, but we must turn to Christ.  How are we called by Jesus to love?  He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to do difficult things like loving our enemies.  Christ commanded His disciples to love as He has loved.  Our best example of His sacrificial love is in the way He willingly laid His life down for us.  I don’t see Christians stateside doing this, though there are still many Christians who are being martyred around the world.  We need to look to this sacrificial love and strive towards loving others so deeply. There are also many everyday examples of Christ’s love we can look towards as we learn how to love as He loved.

We do not need to speak the same language in order to communicate love

Either shortly before or just after I was married, I was encouraged to read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  Now you can also get a version for singles, men, military members, children, teenagers, and probably even one for your pets.  I haven’t read all these, but I noticed examples of Jesus demonstrating love in each of these areas were missing from the original.  Maybe the author felt they went without saying, but I feel they’re worth looking at.

Matthew 3:16-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

God spoke words affirming Jesus!  We see an example of this after His baptism but also in the transfiguration.  Personally, I believe it was as much for the benefit of those around Him as it was for Him, alone.  Sometimes our words of affirmation need to be spoken to lift up those we love to others.

Matthew 8:2-3 English Standard Version (ESV)

2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

This was not just anyone that Jesus touched.  This was a leper.  Someone who had been deemed untouchable.  How much do you think this person longed to be touched?  Had it been months or years since they had, perhaps, been able to give or receive a hug?  Jesus chose touch to heal them.  Yes, the leprosy disappeared, but Jesus clearly conveyed that He did not fear this man’s touch.  He was willing to touch the untouchable.

Luke 10: 38-42 English Standard Version (ESV)

Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[d] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Do not take away from this that acts of service are invalid.  But I do believe we sometimes want to push our own love languages on others.  It’s also important to make sure acts of service are being done with joy, not forced with dragging feet.  Mary’s love language was quality time, and Jesus not only gave it to her but defended her need for it. We also see examples of quality time in the time Jesus spent with the disciples alone from the crowd and also time in prayer.

John 12:1-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Jesus accepted this extravagant gift graciously. He knew the motives of Judas, but He also knew the motives of Mary.  She gave out of a heart of love.  There are times we may feel conflicted about the resources God has given us and how to best steward them.  It is important to remember at these times to seek God’s wisdom in whom to give to and to give from the heart.

Mark 10: 42-45 English Standard Version (ESV)

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Service looks different to different people.  It did for Jesus too.  At times, He calmed the storms. At times, He fed the hungry. At times, He healed the lame.  In all, He served.  Our service to others may look different.  I was given a chance to explain God’s call for me to love the foreigners among us after I stood in line for two hours with multiple small children and a friend in order to help her with translation regarding forms and paperwork.  This act of service showed more love to her than words ever could.

These are not the only demonstrations of each of these types of love in the Bible, but if we’re going to talk about love, we need to focus on the love of Him who first loved us!

We can look to Jesus’ example for ways to love our spouses and children, but it’s also worth noting that these ways often transcend cultural boundaries too.  Words of affirmation is technically the only one that requires speech. As someone who has been working cross-culturally for a while now, I feel confident in saying that non-verbal communication can be substituted in specific situations.  We do not need to speak the same language in order to communicate love. Our backgrounds can be vastly different, but love can overcome barriers and speak volumes.  Go spread the love of Christ!


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