Philosopher Aristides, describing the first century Christians to the Roman emperor Hadrian said this, “They love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who will hurt them. If they have something, they give freely to the man who has nothing; if they see a stranger, they take him home and feed him.” That’s Biblical love. It is not “intellectual speak” or saying “I love you” because that is what you are supposed to do, but it is practically touching or helping another person where they actually feel loved. James writes, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (17) Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14-17). James is simply saying that faith has to be expressed, and when it is expressed others feel it. There is a difference in loving someone, and actually making someone feel loved.
The Greek word for love, “agape,” is one of the rarest words in ancient Greek literature, but one of the most common words in the New Testament. Unlike our English word, it does not have a romantic or even sentiment connotation. It is not a demanding love that hides behind flattery to get what it wants-it is simply doing what is best for the one loved. It is being unselfish and more concerned with giving than receiving; caring than comfort. And those who belong to Jesus Christ are encouraged, exhorted, and commanded to love one another this way.
There are times when love might not be received as a positive feeling, because Biblical love is expressed by admonishment, rebuke, or correction of sin. But most of the time, love should give a positive feeling. It is responding to a person through the lens of I Cor 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Patience, kindness, forgiveness, etc…can be seen and felt by the recipient.
When we look at relationships, especially marriage, the goal of making another person feel loved becomes extremely important. Cary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages” helps couples see that expressing and receiving love has nothing to do with gender, but is based upon what comes naturally to us-what makes us feel loved. So realistically, we all want to feel loved-that is how God made us. Selfishly, we seek our love and use people to love us. But as Jesus Christ has changed our life, we now have the capacity to truly seek out and love others so that they feel loved. Chapman has observed that people give and receive love in five ways: (1) Words of affirmation; (2) Giving and receiving gifts; (3) Acts of service; (4) Quality time; and (5) Physical touch. The goal of love in a marriage is to understand your own love language (how you feel and desire to be loved) and learn your spouse’s love language (how they feel and desire to be loved), then to love your spouse so that they will feel loved. However, we will always be fighting our own human tendency to want to feel love and be loved. But to create a truly intimate relationship, you need to discover your spouse’s love language and try to meet his or her love needs.
I will be the first to tell you that this premise is hard, because we have to put our feeling aside and do what it best for the other person. Deep, down inside us is the thinking that if I love this way, I might be taken advantage of and my love need will not be met. Yes, that is the risk you must take, and we all have been burned at one time or another, but that is God’s way, and He will provide for us in any and all circumstance.
-Pastor Mike Kotrla