by Dr Gavin Williams

Giving and receiving love is a very complex matter. Each one of us demonstrates love in different ways. Just to make things more difficult, we receive love in different ways. I call these our RECEPTOR and EXPRESSOR love languages.

Let me illustrate: Consider Person No.1. who demonstrates love for others by doing acts of service. Service is their expressor love language. They show love by preparing things for others, looking for opportunities to serve others in ways that often go unnoticed

That same person's receptor love language is might be little 'thank you' gifts or words of appreciation or affirmation.

Enter person No.2. Whose receptor love language is touch. They just love to be given a hug or touched in some other appropriate way. However, when this person expresses love it is by being willing to listen to other people pour out their troubles.

The tragedy is that Person No.1. and Person No.2 might interact often but never realize the other person loves them. Why? Because their ways of expressing and receiving love is very different.

This paradox gives us a very interesting challenge in all human relationships.

Husbands and wives often have different love languages. Think of the woman whose receptor language is touch and affirmation but who is married to a man whose expressor love language is doing practical things for her. She might never realize just how much her husband loves her until she begins to understand his way of demonstrating love. She longs for a gentle touch and a few words of affection. He just keeps on doing practical things for her.

The husband in this relationship may well be similarly frustrated. He is doing everything he knows how to demonstrate his love for his wife. He spends long hours in his workshop making things 'for her' and proudly displays his handiwork only to receive and off hand 'that's nice dear' before she begins to talk of something else. He feels rejected and unloved because she has not received his expression of love. If only husbands and wives learned to understand their spouses' expressor and receptor love language many marriages might be very different.

The problem is that we tend to think others express and receive love in the same way we do. Sadly this is not the case and it leads to a great deal of misunderstanding.

During the course of my ministry, I have at times been accused of not loving people. That's quite a charge to level against a pastor. My life is dedicated to serving and loving people. I have come to realize that part of the problem is the way I express love. I express love by serving. When I take careful and prayerful time preparing a message for Sunday morning and making sure that everything else is ready for an inspiring and challenging service, I am saying "I love you all". Sometimes I will go into the worship centre before others arrive, pray over the whole place and check that all the chairs are straight and everything else is 'just right' for God's people. That's just part of the way I express love for those I shepherd.

But for a person whose receptor love language is having someone sit and listen to them pour out their heart, my carefully prepared service and message just doesn't connect with their love receptor. All they want me to do is sit in their home for a few hours while they tell me their life story.

Imagine the challenge any pastor has trying to show his love for all the people in the congregation. I think you are beginning to understand the challenge we all face. In our desire to be a truly loving Christian family there are a number of important things to remember.

1. None of us can love or respond to everyone's love language. It is important for us to recognize that we are all different in the way we demonstrate and receive love.
2. We all need to be careful before we are critical of one another in this regard. Others may very well demonstrate their love us in ways that are profound for them, but just not in ways we recognize.
3. Small groups are vital. As I have already said, none of us can remember or respond to the love languages of everyone, even in a relatively small church. But if you are a member of a home church group, that is a much more manageable number of relationships.
4.We must be sensitive to each other. Take time to learn the love languages of people who may not be part of your immediate circle.
It's not surprising to recognize that some people attending a particular church find it to be the most loving church to which they have ever belonged. At the same time others feel they have never made it beyond the fringe. Understanding the principle of love languages at least gives us some handles on this challenge. But at the end of the day, a loving church depends on everyone doing their part to demonstrate love in every way they can and receive the love offerings of others, even when they don't touch our own receptors.

Suggested Reading: "The Five Languages of Love" by Gary Chapman published by Northfield Publishing

Friday 27th June 2002

© Copyright LttN Ministries Inc. 2002.