As part of sharing our faith, it’s important that we show people all the aspects of God’s love in action. When one person shows care and concern for another human being in a way which is meaningful, then it expresses God’s love. In this article we will look at how to show God’s love, and in doing so share our faith, in different ways.
Why is it important to show love in different ways?
It is important that love shown means something to the person receiving it. Love which has a meaning, has an impact. Sounds obvious, but, as we are going to explore, what is meaningful for me, is not necessarily meaningful for you. This is as much true in how we show we care, as in the sense of romantic love.
Showing meaningful love gives a context
If we want to share our faith in God, it needs a context. That context is often one where someone will ask ‘why are you doing this’ or ‘why are you like this’? We are the best ambassadors for God’s love, and we show it in our actions as well as our words. When we show love in a way which means something to the recipient, then it will get their attention. We will be living distinctively Christian lives. Love shown in a way which doesn’t have a meaning for them may be received as simply ‘oh that was a nice thing to do’ and not recognise anything deeper at work.
Love should be meaningful.
Understanding what it means to have love shown meaningfully
We are made in the image of God. So, if how we experience feeling cared for differently from one another, it makes sense that God expresses his love for us in different ways.
And we can join in with God’s mission by using our separate ways of expressing his love to other people.
Put simply, what works for one person, may not work for another when it comes to feeling that God cares through our actions. But praise God! We are all different and can all express love in different ways. We can really reach our communities if we show love as a local church in the ways in which he has blessed and enabled us. We are blessed by being the body of Christ to bless others.
Showing God’s love is more than doing things for them
When we seek to serve other people, as described in the 5 marks of mission, let us not restrict ourselves to ‘doing things for others’ as the only way of showing God’s love. There is certainly a difference between serving someone and helping someone.
There are 4 other ways of showing God’s love, besides acts of loving service, which we will come on to:
- Encouragement and affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Physical touch
5 languages of love
Recently I have been talking with other people about how we can use the work by Gary Chapman called the 5 languages of love, to share God’s love and sharing our faith more creatively with other people. Even when lockdowns and social distancing have presented challenges to expressing care, it is by no means impossible. The 5 languages of love present us with a possible solution.
Although in his books romantic relationships are Chapman’s focus, he mentions other occasions besides romance. People not romantically linked can indeed show care and appreciation using love languages.
A language of love personal example
For example, the other day a friend of mine gave me, of all things, a bicycle bell.
Now for me, my ‘language’ which makes me feel cared for is to surprise me with a small gift. Though not expensive things: cheap ones. Or free. Or something that you have made yourself.
I then put that thing on my thing shelf – see the picture at the foot of this post for the ‘shelfy’.
Each time I see the thing, then I will think of you and smile, knowing you care.
So why a bike bell? Well both my friend and I, with a couple of others, go cycling. As cyclists with fast road bikes, we aren’t too keen on putting bells on our bikes. Especially the bright pink version my friend gave me! And yet this small gift has given me so much joy over the past few weeks since he gave it to me.
Using the same ideas found in languages of love is a fantastic way to show God’s love towards other people in our actions. They are ideas for showing God’s love in different ways which may lead to conversations and sharing our faith.
Here is a list of ideas from Chapmans own suggestions and conversations I have had with others. The headings are the ones that Chapman suggests.
Encouragement and affirmation
- Handwrite an encouraging letter
- Reminisce about positive things…imagine new things they could try
- On a zoom call, if public tell everyone how awesome someone else on the call is, or how much you appreciate them.
- Help someone look forward and consider the future. Look forward positively rather than backwards negatively. Celebrate what they could achieve, and you believe in them (a ‘you got this’ attitude)
- Time talking but drawing the other person out by asking questions and listening
- If doing an activity, even online, one of you should really want to do it. But you are both aware that the reason for doing it is to spend time with another human that matters.
- A virtual walk? Go visit another country on the web together. Play games together.
- Find a load of fun facts that you would like to talk about. And use that as stepping off points
- Join a Facebook online watch party. Or premiere on YouTube something that the other person is interested in.
- Promise postcards! For my 50th birthday, as it was in lockdown, my family wrote 50 postcards with promises of ideas. When we finally have more freedom again, they will spend time with me WHENEVER I ASK FOR IT!
- Make time to call up and talk about how you spent your day.
- Talk about 5 questions. Keep it within safe limits, but come up with 5 questions to talk about, personal ones are great. The diocese of Bath and Wells has table talk question type cards which may be useful. Ugly Duckling, a Christian company specialising in products to help people have better conversations, have an app with table talk questions for free for android and apple users. Check out their product range as well.
It doesn’t have to be expensive! It’s about the symbol that having something tangible that has meaning. Yes, it is the thought that counts…
- Order something off the internet since you can send to another address
- Make something and send it. For some people, having something that is handmade is important. The item becomes symbolic of the amount of time which you have spent on them is worth a lot.
- The postcard idea of promises of what you could do together next time you can spend some time together
Acts of service
What gifts/skills do you have which you love to use, and you could use to serve someone else?
This is perhaps the most obvious for many Christians, which might make it seem easy. But for those who find it hard to serve others can be a little guilt-inducing. However, look for ways in which your skills can serve someone else. Make a skills and gifts list or ask other people to help you as a group make one. Then together look out for ways in which you can serve others. If you don’t leave it all to one person to shoulder the burden of everything, you’ll be able to love so many more people.
This is the most challenging whilst we are physically distanced from other people. Here are some suggestions.
- When talking or emailing, express a way in which you ‘wish’ you could hug someone.
- Send photos of yourself (if you are close enough) or a favourite animal of the other person? Send a photo that you have printed off. Rather than an email attachment, a physical photo received in the post is more tangible.
- Trace your hand on a piece of paper and send it so that your friend can put their hand on it when they need physical touch.
- Handwritten letters… even more meaningful in a digital age.
- A gift of a scarf perhaps that someone could wear.
- Have a pillow printed with a photograph of you on it and give as a gift. This is particularly special for grandparents when they can’t hug their children.
Can you take using Love Languages one stage further?
Yes…by being an enabler! How might you be able to help someone else loving others?
An example given to me was a lady gave a gift to a dad she knows of a packet of seeds. He then spent time (valuable time) with his children planting the seeds. They cared for the seeds and watched them grow together. He was very thankful.
So, she gave a gift, and he was able to show love through making quality time.
In summary, love languages are a way to find more natural ways of sharing our faith
When one person shows another person that they care in a meaningful way, then they are expressing God’s love.
When we let God’s love overflow in our lives to how we care for others, we are creating the spaces for people to see God’s love in action.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5 verse 16)
What does this mean?
In this context, simply that when we do these loving things, out of a heart that puts Jesus first in our lives, then people are more likely to ask us why. That will lead us to a more natural way of sharing our faith. And then when asked, we can tell people what Jesus has done for us which motivates us to love in these ways. If you would like to know what to say when people ask us ‘why’, how about joining us in one of our regular Talking Jesus courses?
So, how could you show someone else God’s love today?