“All for Love—the Work of Loving Others”
(from 1Corinthians 15: 12-20)
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ–whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died
We recently shared a message together on the topic of love. We learned that the selfless and self-sacrificial form of love, agape love that Paul wrote about in his letter to the Corinthian Church, is the highest love of all. It is the grace-filled love we first receive from God, and the love that Christ Jesus calls us to model after his example. In our lesson from 1Corinthians Chapter 15 today, Paul reminds us that Jesus’ love for us sent him to the cross, so that he would conquer sin and death. He was raised from death to bring us marvelous new and eternal life in his name. Now that is self-sacrificial agape love at its best. In honor of celebrating Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I would like to take some time to build upon Paul’s foundation of true agape love. So, today let us explore some of the aspects of living out our Christian faith by following Christ Jesus’ example of showing agape love toward others.
You will recall that agape love is not dictated by feelings, but by intentional actions on behalf of another person. We can display agape love to others whether or not we “feel” loving toward them. As Dr. M. Scott Peck stated in his book The Road Less Traveled, “Love is as love does.” Love is intention followed by action; love is a choice we make and then fulfill by our deeds of service. When we choose agape love, we are choosing to sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of fulfilling another person’s needs. Agape love is work.
An important foundational aspect of agape love is found in how we treat others. Reverend Dr. Gary Chapman spent more than 30 years of his ministry in marriage and relationship counseling. Over the course of his work, Dr. Chapman discovered that there are 5 distinct ways by which we can act to foster the health and success of our human relationships. Dr. Chapman termed these ways “the 5 love languages.” Although these languages were initially developed as a means of fostering the relationship between partners, Chapman discovered that employing these same behaviors can foster every kind of relationship, from our friendships to our co-worker business relationships. This is true because the guiding principles behind Chapman’s love languages are respect for and appreciation of others. These guiding principles are both critical and meaningful foundations of all our human interrelationships. The 5 languages by which we can display our appreciation and respect—the agape form of self-sacrificial love—to others are: spending quality time, giving and receiving gifts, physical touch, acts of service, and words of affirmation. One of these 5 love languages is the means by which each of the various people with whom we share a relationship best feels that they are being respected, appreciated, and loved. According to Chapman, if we will take the time and make the self-sacrifice of learning the love language of our partners, friends and co-workers, we will improve our relationships with them. So, let’s take a few minutes to understand each of Chapman’s 5 love languages, so we can learn how to “speak” them effectively with others.
As we begin this discussion on Chapman’s 5 love languages, I am reminded that doing this work of loving others by the manner in which we treat them is grounded in scripture. Jesus said in Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We are admonished by Jesus to treat others as we ourselves want to be treated. So, learning their love language is a way of treating others with the same kind of appreciation and respect that we also want to receive. Spending quality time, the first love language, is a way of showing love because it communicates to another person they are worth our time. We are all so busy in our daily routines, we can neglect to make time for those relationships that are important to us. This is the major way by which some folks feel loved and valued, and so making special time just for them is our way of showing them that we value our relationship with them. Partners often spend quality time by sharing a date night. Yet, even business relationships have been improved by bosses dropping by to spend a few minutes chatting with their team members without asking them for an update or checking on a project deadline.
Gifts are almost always pleasant to receive. Gifts given at an ordinary time, when they are not expected can be especially fun to receive. For some people, tangible tokens of appreciation given without request are their love language. The thoughtfulness and sacrifice of time/resources taken to provide the gift is received by folks of this love language as a communication of our sincere admiration, appreciation, and respect for them. It is how they can both feel and know we value them. We may recognize the value of employing the love language of giving gifts to our mates. In a business environment, an unexpected gift such as bringing in bagels, ordering a pizza lunch, or sending team members home early on a Friday afternoon could be nurturing to our professional relationships.
Physical touch, the third love language, is appreciation, respect and affection shown in the form of touch. Although we may initially associate physical touch with romance, hugging, holding another’s hand, or placing our hand on their shoulder is also a way of communicating caring for others through the means of touch. I cannot tell you how many times I have entered a new church and heard some of the members say “I am a hugger. I just love to receive a good hug!” There is no doubt about the love language of these folks. In both personal and professional situations, holding or touching a person’s hand or placing your hand on their shoulder can be a powerful non-verbal way of communicating kindness, understanding, empathy and compassion to those whose personal love language is physical touch.
Acts of service is the fourth language by which we can meaningfully show love to others. Acts of service are those things that we can do to make life easier for others. In partner relationships, an act of service can be cooking a favorite meal and cleaning up the kitchen and dishes afterward, or completing some household chore that is on your partner’s “to do” list. In the business world, or among friends, it can take the form of a doing special favor that will take that task off their plate, like picking up something needed at the store for them. When we give our time to perform a service that is meaningful to another person for whom this is their love language, we are showing our appreciation, respect and love for them.
The final love language is words of affirmation. Affirming words communicate to others verbally our admiration, appreciation, and respect for them. Telling our partners verbally how much we love them and they mean to us, or affirming them for various things they have done for us shows this form of love language. In the business world and among friends, verbally affirming their gifts and strengths, or recognizing something that they have done very well is affirming to them and displays our respect and appreciation.
Now that we have a better understanding of Chapman’s love languages, we can begin to discover how they may best describe the people in our various relationship circles, and practice them as a means of strengthening these relationships. A word of caution is important as we consider beginning to engage these love languages. We can tend to show others the love language that is most meaningful to us. Unless it is the language of the person to whom we are showing this form of love, it will not be meaningful, and in fact, can be detrimental. For example, hugging someone, entering their personal space bubble, can be a problem if they are shy or uncomfortable around others and need their space. So, whether or not we choose to engage the love languages to show our respect and appreciation of others, we always need to be reminded that agape love acts behalf of the other person, and seeks to meet their needs. Dear friends, Jesus taught us to love others as he loves us. Jesus’ love for us is agape love, a self-sacrificial love freely given to us when he gave his life for us. In his image, let us now go forth to do the work of truly loving and caring for others as Christ first loved and cared for us-not only on Valentine’s Day, but each day throughout our lives. Amen.