August 5, 2018 – “Finding Your Love Language” by Rev. Cody Sandahl

Rev. Cody Sandahl
Rev. Cody Sandahl
August 5, 2018 - "Finding Your Love Language" by Rev. Cody Sandahl
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Lay Reader = John 21:15-17

15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Introduction

We are starting a new sermon series about finding your love language. Just to see what we’re working with, who here is familiar with The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman? The basic idea is that we all have particular ways that we naturally experience and express love. Chapman identified physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts as the five love languages in our relationships.

I always tell my premarital couples that they should read this book. But failing that, they should at least read the summary on the five love languages website. Cliff’s Notes version works fine here.

Here’s why this is important. There’s one love language that is so distantly last for me personally that I always have to sit and think, “Now what’s the fifth one again?” I’m not kidding. For me, gifts are nice and all, but they aren’t a way that I experience or express love.

But now what if Becca really loved gifts? What if that was her primary love language? Would it work for me to say, “Sorry, honey, but I’m not a gifts guy?” We probably wouldn’t be married. I would have to learn to speak HER love language. We tend to show love the same way that we want to receive love, but to have great relationships we have to learn to show love the way the other person wants to receive love. We have to translate from our love language to theirs. Make sense?

Or what if you’re constantly doing small acts of service for someone and they never notice? Are they taking you for granted? Are they ignoring you? Well, maybe acts of service isn’t their love language, so they aren’t noticing. What IS their love language and how can you show that?

But this same concept applies in our relationship with God. I thought of this connection when I was teaching our youth inquirers about the meaning of worship this past year. What’s your love language with God? How do you worship best?

Music is one of my primary worship love languages, but especially when I can sing or play. Listening to great music is OK, but it’s not my primary worship love language. Some people love to clap in affirmation. Others think that’s blasphemous. Some people want to settle into silence. Others don’t want the passing of the peace to stop because they love talking.

One of our church members told me that she discovered she connects best with God out hiking alone where she can speak her thoughts and prayers aloud. And it took her years to discover this. But now that she knows, she can intentionally seek that form of worship.

So over the course of this sermon series, we’re going to hopefully figure out more about ourselves – how we like to experience love. So then we can seek that in our relationships. And we’re hopefully going to discover more about our friends and family and romantic relationships – how others like to experience love so we can show that in our relationships. And we’re hopefully going to discover more about our souls – how we best connect with the Living God so we can seek that in our faith.

I thought of this sermon series as I was contemplating Jesus’ greatest commandment – love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. I believe this series will help us love God, love others, and seek love for ourselves better.

And we might as well start a series about love by going to the most famous Scripture about love. 1 Corinthians 13. The first half is read at the majority of weddings. The second half is one of my personal favorites at funerals.

In this text, Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. And the church-goers were apparently engaging in what I call “conspicuous Christianity.” They were trying to be the most outwardly spiritual. The most outwardly benevolent. The most Jesus-y person this side of the Mississippi. Well – maybe this side of the Mediterranean in their case.

Actually this points at something I really appreciate about this church. This congregation isn’t showy. No one seems to be competing for Christian coronation here. I deeply appreciate that. But the church in Corinth was all about being showy for Jesus.

In the previous chapter, Paul had to tell them to stop competing with each other over who had the best and most spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. And in this chapter he unmasks their shallow showiness and points them in the direction of deeper and more meaningful relationships with each other and with God.

There are three sections. The first section is the unmasking – it’s a list of the ways the Corinthians are being shallow and showy. The second section starts with “love is patient; love is kind…” It reveals what their relationships would and should look like if they were loving. And the third section starts with, “Love never ends” but then lists other things that will end. This section looks forward to the day when we permanently and personally enjoy the love of Christ – a day that hasn’t come quite yet.

1 Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

[That was the shallow showiness. Here’s what love looks like]

4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

[And now our hope for eternal love]

8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Different Kinds of Love

So what’s your favorite food? Absolute favorite food? What food do you LOVE? In fact, call it out now. Favorite food – call it out! [PAUSE] I’m getting hungry, maybe I should just say “amen” and get us to the hospitality table already!

Well for me there are a few different foods I love, but pizza is probably king of the hill. When I was at the University of Texas, I lived in Jester dorm. It holds over 3,000 students. It has two dining halls, a convenience store, and a hallway of restaurant options. It also smells faintly of urine, but that’s a side note for this story. I just don’t want you to be surprised if you go there.

Given all of those options for food, no student has to get into a culinary rut. Unless that student wants to be in a culinary rut. In my first semester at Jester I ate at least one, usually two, and sometimes as many as three meals a day at the pizza shop on the bottom floor of Jester. And I didn’t switch off of pepperoni until two months in. I don’t know why I gained fifteen pounds. I think it was something in the water.

Now I tell you this so that you know that I love pizza. I don’t just like pizza, I love pizza. Are you with me?

So let’s rewind and pretend that I’m writing a note to Becca when we were dating. Let’s imagine that I want to tell her how much I love her, so I write in beautiful prose, “You are like pepperoni and cheese to me.” That’s a high compliment given how much I love pizza. But is that gonna fly? I don’t think saying I love you as much as I love pizza is going to work.

OK, so pizza is out. But what if I wrote, “My love for you is like my love for my mom.” Is that better? Ick! While Freud would probably appreciate it, I don’t think comparing my love for my future wife to my love for my mom is going to get me anywhere but the doghouse.

OK, sorry, Mom, but you’re out, too. What if I wrote, “My love for you reminds me of my roommate Jeff.” Ehhh – I think that’s a little off, too. Jeff and I had a lot of fun in college. But definitely not the same kind of relationship as my wife, right?

As many of you already know, English has only one word for love, while Greek has several different words for these different contexts. So the roommate relationship has its own word – “philia.” Family love has another word – “storge.” Romantic, passionate love is “eros.” And then there was a rather more rare word to talk about love that seeks the goodwill of another – “agape.”

So it’s always useful to know which word is being used in Greek. For instance, in the first text we read Jesus uses “agape” when he asks Peter, “do you love me more than these.” But Peter replies with “philia” – “yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” A way to think about Peter’s response is to imagine him saying, “Yeah, Jesus, you’re my bro!” That’s not quite what Jesus was asking.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he uses “agape,” the same word Jesus used. And this is an interesting word because it’s not based on emotion. It’s not based on circumstance. It’s based on a choice.

I can want the best for you and be willing to do something to help you even if I don’t know you. In fact, I can want the best for you and be willing to do something to help you even if I DO know you and don’t like you. It’s a choice, not an emotion or a circumstance.

That’s why Jesus can command us to love – “agape” – everyone. We can desire and seek every person’s goodwill. And that’s why Paul can tell the Corinthians to love one another – “agape” – even though they are fighting right now. It’s a choice, not an emotion or a circumstance.

And that also means that we can seek love – “agape” – in all of our relationships. This applies to our spouses, to our roommates, to our mothers, to our children, to our co-workers, to the driver who cut you off on the road on your way here. Paul is showing us how love can be a way of life no matter the circumstances and no matter how you’re feeling at the moment.

Attitudes and Actions

When we look at this amazing passage about love, two main things stand out about love. First, love involves action. Patience. Kindness. Bearing things. Rejoicing together. But it also involves attitudes. Not arrogant. Hopeful. Trusting.

We’ll spend time unpacking each of the five love languages for our relationships and our worship, but today I want you to think more high level.

What does Paul’s letter tell you about your friend relationships? Any new actions you need to do? Any new attitudes you need to choose?

What does Paul’s letter tell you about your romantic relationships? Any new actions or attitudes you need to choose?

What does Paul’s letter tell you about your family relationships? Any new actions or attitudes you need to choose?

What does Paul’s letter tell you about your relationship with God? Any new actions or attitudes you need to choose in worship or prayer or service or discipleship?

What does Paul’s letter tell you about your internal monologue? Any new actions or attitudes you need to choose personally?

Here’s how powerful this can be. In one of my previous churches one of the guys I knew came to me completely distraught. He had been caught, not just in an affair, but with a prostitute. He acknowledged it was his fault. He wasn’t driven to it, he wasn’t mad at his wife. He just made some terrible decisions and he knew it. But he came to me for help in making better decisions and hopefully save and renew his family. He knew she had every right to throw him out on the curb.

And we talked about the five love languages concept. I encouraged him to not just to be aware of his wife’s love languages, but to become the world’s foremost expert on how his wife likes to receive love. And then become a third degree black belt in showing that kind of love to her. And to be safe, probably better get to know her secondary and tertiary love languages as well.

He dove into that assignment with zeal and commitment. And it saved, renewed, and transformed their relationship.

That’s how much power is found in love. What could that power do in your life?

Summary

To close today, I want you to flip to your bulletin cover. There’s Paul’s list of what love – “agape” – looks like. I’m going to give you a minute of silence to read that list and think about your different relationships – including your relationship with God. What action or attitude might you need to choose to more fully reflect the presence of Christ in your life? How can you love more fully? Take a moment now and pray about that.