In his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Dr Gary Chapman describes the five unique styles of communicating love, categories he distilled from his experience in marriage counselling and linguistics. Since not everyone communicates love in the same way, and likewise, people have different ways they prefer to receive love, he enumerates the five love languages as five different ways of expressing and receiving love: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. If you have read the book, I am sure many of us can relate to most of these languages, but surely each of us has one that speaks to us the most.
The readings this Sunday describe to us God’s language of love. It may not be as articulate and verbose as Dr Chapman’s description but certainly offers us profound reflections regarding our relationship with God. During the time the New testament was written, the Greek philosophers claimed to know God with their philosophy. For them, the supreme human achievement was in the knowledge they possessed. However this premise is going to be challenged by John the Evangelist. The Gospel today pointedly makes known that knowledge of God alone is insufficient but ‘the acid test for anyone claiming to know God’ is found in these words: “Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”
God’s primary language of love is the embodiment of Jesus Christ – ‘for God so loved the world that He sent His Son…’ and the Son came into the world to lead us towards experiencing that same love: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you”. In this whole dynamic of love of God and of neighbour, real love is the essence of God!
The model (language) of love that the followers of Jesus are called to emulate must be found in Jesus Himself. But what was Jesus’ language of love during His public ministry? Firstly, Jesus’ love was AUTHENTHIC. The expressions of anger and patience, sadness and joy, crying and laughter, expectation and disappointment. Jesus’ love was as real as how we too express love. Secondly, His love was SACRIFICIAL. Despite the rejection that Jesus experienced from the religious leaders of His time, Jesus still risked His life by accepting suffering and even forgiving His persecutors – He laid down His life for us. Thirdly, Jesus’ love was INCLUSIVE. In His sensitivity, understanding, compassion, acceptance and self-giving, Jesus did not exclude anyone from God’s love because we are His friends. In short, Jesus’ language of love was authentic, sacrificial, and inclusive.
If we called to love one another as Jesus loves us, then the Christian command to love is not merely a “good feeling” towards one another. Our love for God and one another must be modelled upon the love of Jesus – it has to be authentic, sacrificial, and inclusive. To be authentic means to be able to empathise with others… to be able to experience the joy with and for others but at the same time to be able to feel the pain and struggles of others. To be sacrificial simply means to be able to walk the extra mile when it matters the most and not merely provide lip service of criticism and empty promises. To be inclusive means every one is a friend, no matter what their preferred way of life may be and even when we may agree to disagree.
The Gospel today is perhaps one of the best-known discourses on love found in the Bible. In fact, the word love appears nine times in this short passage and beautifully weaved into this passage are descriptions of the love that God has for us, the love that Jesus has for His friends, and the love that friends should have for one another – the source of this love is God.
The word of God profoundly reminds us that as a people of the risen Lord, we are to give witness to God’s love in every situation, even in those challenging ones. Authenticity, sacrifice, and inclusivity are going to be the three languages of love of every disciple of Jesus because “anyone who does not love his brother and sister, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen…. Whoever loves God must also love his brother and sister” (1 John 4:20).
“Love is shown more in deeds than in words.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola
Sixth Sunday of Easter (9 May 2021)