Sunday, May 15, 2011

The International Language

The law says, "You must not be guilty of adultery. You must not murder anyone. You must not steal. You must not want to take your neighbor's things.” All these commands and all others are really only one rule: "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

-- Romans 13:9

Depending on which authority you ask, there are more than 6,000 different languages spoken in the world today. Mandarin Chinese has the most speakers (numbering about 1 billion), while English and Spanish come in at a distant second and third with about 350 million each. But regardless of nationality, every Christ-follower should be fluent in at least one Romance language. It’s not Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or even French. In this special case, it’s the language of love.

What’s that supposed to mean? According to relationship expert and counselor Gary Chapman, husbands and wives actually speak distinct love languages throughout their marriage. Some speak it through words of affirmation or acts of service while others verbalize their affections through physical touch or quality time. And not surprisingly, another popular marital love language involves giving or receiving gifts.

We learn through the Bible that God also shows His love in several different ways. Think about the famous story of the Prodigal Son, where the loving father welcomes back his wayward—and totally undeserving—child with open arms. Or what about the shepherd who searches tirelessly for a single missing sheep? When he finally finds it, he returns it triumphantly to the rest of the flock.

Jesus also told His disciples about a man who sold all his possessions to buy a field. But not just any field—one that held buried treasure. Although the cost to buy the land was staggering, the man did whatever it took to gain the prize.

These are all pictures of how God shows His love for us. He’ll go to any length to bring you and me into His family. Perhaps the most famous passage in the New Testament (John 3:16) tells us that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son (Jesus) so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. God willingly let Jesus suffer and die to pay for all our wrongdoings—past, present and future. We rightfully deserve death because of how we’ve lived our lives and mistreated others. But God’s love offers us joy and happiness if we’re only willing to accept it. By living on Earth among everyday people and then dying for our sins, Jesus has already paid the ultimate price.

We can see from these examples that God’s love language—the one we all need to learn—isn’t about feelings or emotion. Instead, it’s all about action. And as the most important Fruit of the Spirit, the demonstration of love in our lives is evidence that we’re really Christ-followers and that He’s living through us. For some, that might translate into feeding the hungry at a homeless shelter, mowing the yard of an elderly widow or even paying (anonymously) the utility bill of a discouraged unemployed neighbor. There’s no shortage of examples or opportunities.

Regardless of what certain late night TV commercials might claim, learning a new language can be difficult. But James, the brother of Jesus, tells us through the Bible that speaking the most important language of all is really quite simple. And it’s when we do that we know we’re on the narrow path that Christ advised us to take.

“This royal law is found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ If you obey this law, you are doing right.”

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