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God's Love Language (part 6)

by Hilary MacBeth

by Hilary MacBeth

Title                  God's Love Language (part 6)
Theme              The five languages of Love


Five issues ago, in the introduction to this article, the authour listed the five languages of love as:

Last issue we looked at the fourth of these.  Now we go on to the final section.

5. Words of Affirmation

Encouraging words

Another way God affirms us is through words of encouragement. We're all very familiar with Jesus's sermon on the mount. Listen while I read it from The Message.

Matt 5: Message. Page 15 to "Salt of the Earth"

Then there's the beautiful picture of Jesus on the beach after his resurrection providing breakfast for the disciples who had gone fishing and had been out all night. Remember his words of encouragement to Peter. Let's look at them

John 21:15-17

We can only imagine how Peter was feeling after the night of Jesus's trial. How he must have beaten up on himself for not being stronger and how he must have longed to talk to Jesus about his remorse and ask for forgiveness.  Jesus knew what was in Peter's heart and so we have this beautiful dialogue that was exactly what Peter needed. Peter had denied knowing Jesus three times and three times Jesus affirmed Peter and reestablished his position as a trusted and loved disciple.

Jesus was an expert at building up those who were feeling low. Notice that there is no judgment here, only empathy and encouragement.

What an example for us. It's human nature to react with anger and frustration when others let us down and don't give us the support we want and expect. It's easy to react and feel justified in doing so, harder to be understanding and compassionate.

And when we meet those who seem too needy, those that are prickly and hard to love we want to protect ourselves by putting distance between ourselves and them. We back off.

Jesus sees into the heart - he sees the pain and fear that cause antisocial behaviour.

When we treat those who are struggling because of personal problems with respect and endeavour to bring comfort and encouragement to their lives we are speaking God's love language.


In her book "the power of a Praying Woman" Stormie Omartian says:

"Often *we don't recognize the unforgiveness that is in us. We think we are forgiving but we aren't really. If we don't ask God to reveal our unforgiveness to us we may never get free of the paralyzing grip it has on our lives. A big part of making sure our lives are clean and right before God has to do with forgiving other people. We can never move into all God has for us unless we do.

Matt. 6 14,15

But if you forgive those who sin against your heavenly Father will forgive you
But if you refuse to forgive others your Father will not forgive you.

I like the way The Message puts it -

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do.  You can't get forgiveness from God for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part you cut yourself off from God's part.

And Matt. 5:43 - 48

Message: Jesus said:

You're familiar with the old written law - Love your friend, and its unwritten companion - hate your enemy. I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives His best - the sun to warm, the rain to nourish - to every one regardless: the good and the bad, the nice and the nasty. If all you do is love the loveable, do you expect a bonus? Anyone can do that. If you simply say "hello" to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

In a word, what I'm saying is, GROW UP! You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

The problem is though that forgiveness if sometimes so difficult that it seems impossible.

It's so hard to practice forgiveness because it's an unnatural act - we protest its unfairness. Nature demands justice and accountability - when we've been deeply hurt we want someone to pay and we get stuck between our need for justice and our need to forgive. We might argue to ourselves "Why should I be the first to make a move? I'm the one who was wronged". Problem is if we wait for the other party to make a move we could be waiting a lifetime and what a waste that would be when we think about the impact holding onto anger has on our emotional and physical health. It makes us depressed and physically sick.

When I talk about forgiveness I'm not necessarily talking about fronting up to a person and telling them that they are forgiven - although that may be necessary in some cases. The other person may not want our forgiveness or they may not even be aware that they have hurt us. Or it may be that they are no longer living. If we have been abused by someone in the past and maintain an attitude of unforgiveness in effect we continue to perpetrate that abuse on ourselves. So for our own sakes we need to learn to be forgiving. Forgiveness then, is about us, and our attitude, it's not so much about the other person.

Let's think about the word forgive  - notice it has the word give in it - as in giving a gift. And what God asks us to do is a lot like what he does for us in extending his grace to us - He's asking us to do something that's unreasonable, that's undeserved and that's unfair - just like His grace toward us.

Forgiveness does not make what has happened to us OK. It doesn't excuse the wrong done to us. We can't change history  - what's done is done - and we may continue to feel the pain but what forgiveness does for us is it releases us from the responsibility of judgment of another. That's the blessing. God says to leave the judging to Him - dealing with sin is His department, His responsibility - we are not qualified to do that.

Rom. 12:19 - 21

In his book " What's so Amazing About Grace" Philip Yancey says, " Forgiveness is an act of faith - we trust God to do the right thing and when we hand the responsibility of judgment over to God we are freed of its burden." What a relief!!

There's something else Yancey says that's important - praying for the person we need to forgive. Listen to this. " Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side and plead for him to God."  And he says that when we do this we are doing for them what they cannot do for themselves. We need to remind ourselves that those who wound us are God's precious children just as we are. And He loves them in just the same way as He loves us.

When we let go of the weight of carrying unforgiveness we know:

- God is now able to forgive us our sins - the hurt we caused him.
- We are able to enter into the rich experiences he has for us in our relationship with him because remember - sin separates us from God.

And there's more to consider.

Matt 5:23, 24.

Gifts at the altar equals service to the church - the duties we perform. In short, Jesus is saying that we cannot honour God in the performance of our duties to our church when we hold grudges against another. Satan just rubs his hands together in glee when there is division in our churches because of ill feelings. What a tragedy when church communities suffer the ill effect of people holding grudges. God cannot bless our churches the way He longs to if church members practice unforgiveness toward each other. And I wonder how many people have lost their relationship with God because they have felt uncomfortable attending church due to a fall out with a member. How serious is that to think that our attitude to others can have results that affect their eternal destiny. Scary isn't it!

Forgiveness often requires us to practice patience.

In his book "A Love Worth Giving" Max Lucado tells this story:

There was an important conference on church leadership that Max was very interested in and keen to attend so he arrived early and got a seat in the front row. When the speaker began to talk Max was distracted by the sound of voices coming from the back of the room. Two men were mumbling to each other. Max was playing with the idea of turning around and shooting a glare of disapproval at the offenders when the speaker interrupted himself and said, "Forgive me. I forgot to explain why the two fellows at the back of the class are talking. One of them is an elder from a new church in Romania. He has travelled here to learn about church leadership and as he doesn't speak English the message is being translated for him."

Max says what a difference understanding made, suddenly, the once annoying voices became very tolerable.

We sometimes wonder how God can be so patient with sinners, with us. It's because he knows us and understands us. He understands that our wisdom is limited, that we are physically weak, that emotionally we are vulnerable.

Psalms 103: 13,14.

13. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to them that fear him.

14. For he understands how weak we are, he knows we are only dust. ( i.e. he remembers our origin and doesn't expect more from us than we are able to give.)

And remember that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to teach us to pray so asking for help is a good idea. And one of the things we can pray for is a spirit of forgiveness.

So let's remember that when we speak the language of forgiveness to others we are speaking God's love language to them.

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