SOLI Lectionary Reflection
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, January 30, 2011
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8
For Christmas my mother gave me a copy of The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. The gist of the book is that there are only five basic ways that people express love: the “love languages.” Although to some degree everybody uses all the languages–words of affirmation, spending quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch–most people have a one or two “primary” love languages that they naturally use.
Chapman’s 30 plus years of counseling experience and background as an anthropologist have consistently shown that when a couple learns to speak each other’s primary love language they greatly enhance their ability to express love and enjoy a solid, affirming relationship. These principles hold true across cultures and are applicable to relationships with one’s children, parents, and even co-workers.
Chapman’s ideas got me wondering if there is a broader application for love languages in our relationships within the body of Christ, as sisters and brothers in the faith. How might these principles apply in a congregation? Not just for marriage counseling, but in our interactions as rostered and lay leaders, as committees, and in welcoming guests into our communities of faith.
And more! Is it a complete and totally weird stretch to think God possibly has primary love languages, and if so, do we do a good job of speaking it? After all, scripture reminds us that God is relational, and relationships do go two ways.
Just when I was beginning to think I might be pushing this metaphor just a little bit too far, I read the Revised Common Lectionary Old Testament reading for this coming Sunday (Micah 6:1-8), and experiened one of those “Aha!” moments. Yes, God does have a love language, and we all too often fail to speak it.
Yes, that big “Aha!” moment about God’s love language came through loud and clear in verse 8. God requires us to “do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” God seems a whole lot more interested in “acts of service” and “quality time,” at least the way I understand this verse, and other verses where God makes clear what language needs to be spoken (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, for example). No, of course, Chapman’s five love languages do not exactly parallel the relationship a disciple shares with God, but perhaps this is a way of beginning to talk about what it means to love God and one another in ways that are productive and that lead to deeper and lasting joy and commitment.
God wants our time, demands our time, not just once a week for a couple of hours or a few times a year. God wants us to be intimately involved in relationship, in prayer, study of scripture, holy listening, and a humble daily walk. The connection runs both ways, as much as we might like to ignore the implications of that fact. How might we encourage one another to speak the love language of “quality time” to God?
Micah’s words remind us that God expects us to do justice and to love kindness. That sure sounds a lot like “acts of service” to me. Think of Jesus’ words in Luke 10:27 to the lawyer, as well as similar accounts in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. Part of loving God involves sacrificial living and giving, serving God in ways that benefit others and bring glory to God. Loving God with the language of “acts of service” means living sacrificially and maintaining an outward, countercultural focus. We turn the “M” in “me” upside down so that the word becomes “we.”
Maybe, just maybe, this week as we read the beatitudes and hear about God’s generous acts of serving and loving each one of us (even to the point of taking on flesh and bone and living and dying among us), we might take some time to ponder how we show our love for God. What language do we need to use? Perhaps employing Chapman’s principles is one accessible way of accessing this idea so that we may be better stewards of our relationship with the Divine One who loves us beyond compare.
Blessings on your proclamation!