Love is a universal emotion.

God created us both to love and to be loved, and if either of those is missing, it’s very harmful to us. We are relational creatures, and relationships are a two-way street. Love flows out of us to others and from others to us.

But even though love is a universal emotion, the way we express and experience it is not. What seems loving to one person may not seem loving to someone else.

Have you ever received a gift that you weren’t too thrilled with? The giver of the gift didn’t understand what you really liked. Showing love to others is similar in some respects. If we want a person to feel loved by us, we need to know what actually makes them feel loved.

This is where the idea of “love languages”, coined by author Dr. Gary Chapman, can be helpful. According to Chapman, each person has a love language -- something in particular that makes them feel loved. The key to a healthy relationship is knowing a person’s love language and then expressing your love to them in that manner.

Now, to be clear, you won’t find the term “love language” in the Bible. But in Philippians 2:4 we are commanded:

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Knowing the things that make a person feel loved and then expressing love in those ways is a way of looking to the interests of others.

In this article, we’re going to look at each of the five love languages, compare them to Scripture, and seek to apply them in our own lives.

Understanding The Different Types of Love Languages

Words of Affirmation

Words of affirmation are words that build up, encourage, and strengthen a person. Everything from simple compliments (“You look great today!”) to profound encouragement (“You’re one of the most thoughtful people I know”) falls into the words of affirmation category.

God commands us to regularly use our words to build up one another.

Ephesians 4:29 says,

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

The words we speak are meant to build others up, not tear them down. They should impart God’s grace to people and strengthen them as they seek to navigate the difficulties of life.

Proverbs 18:21 says,

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Words of affirmation can fill a person with joy and refresh their soul.

If someone’s love language is words of affirmation, look for creative ways to bless them with your words. Are they particularly skilled at something? Do they always make you laugh? Do you see God at work in their life? Tell them! It’s amazing how a few simple words can give life to a person.

Acts of Service

When a person’s love language is acts of service, it means that they’re really blessed when people do things to serve them. Taking out the trash for someone is an act of service. Bringing a meal is an act of service. Cleaning a room, changing the oil in a car, and painting a house can all be acts of service. Really, almost anything can be an act of service if it’s done with the intent of blessing someone.

Jesus shows us just how important acts of service are. In Mark 10:43-45, Jesus says to His disciples,

“...but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Jesus constantly served those around Him. He healed the sick, fed hungry crowds with bread and fish, cooked breakfast for His disciples, and even washed their feet. In the ultimate act of service, Jesus died on the cross to rescue us from our sins. In some ways, you could say that Jesus’ entire life was an act of service.

If someone’s love language is acts of service, look for different ways you can serve them. Do they have any specific needs you can meet? Can you do something for them that would make their life easier? Can you relieve them of a burden in some way? You don’t need to overcomplicate things. Even simple acts of service can really bless a person.

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Receiving Gifts

If a person’s love language is receiving gifts, it means that they feel particularly blessed by thoughtful presents. It is not the gifts themselves that make them feel loved but the time, thought, and effort that goes into choosing the right gift.

In the Bible, we see that God Himself is the greatest gift giver of all. He could have created a world that was boring, bland, and utilitarian. Instead, He filled the world with millions of things for us to enjoy.

He gave us food, nature, oceans, animals, each other, and a host of other wonderful things.

1 Timothy 4:4 says,

“For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.”

God gave us the greatest gift when He sent Jesus to live a sinless life, die for our sins, and then rise from the dead. There is nothing greater that He could give us. He loves us that much.

If someone's love language is receiving gifts, try to think of what they would enjoy receiving. If you’re not sure what exactly they would like, ask them to make a wish list.

Quality Time

Quality time is unhurried time together. You give your undivided attention to the other person. You don’t allow yourself to be distracted by your phone or interrupted by others. You’re not doing something else while you’re with the person. You are focused entirely on them.

Jesus spent large amounts of quality time with those He loved.

He ate dinner with Mary and Martha, prayed with His disciples, and had unhurried discussions with many different people.

In Mark 6:31-32 we see Jesus setting aside time to be with His disciples:

“And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.”

If someone’s love language is quality time, set aside time regularly to be with them. Have coffee together. Go for walks. Enjoy an unhurried dinner together. The activity isn’t as important as simply spending time together.

Physical Touch

Physical touch encompasses all manner of relationship-appropriate physical interaction. With your spouse it could include kissing and caressing. With a friend it could include hugging and affectionate touches on the arm.

In multiple places in the New Testament, Christians are commanded to greet one another with a “holy kiss”. In that culture, platonic kisses were a way of demonstrating your affection for a person.

And while things may look culturally different now, the principle remains the same. Appropriate physical touch is a way to tell a person that you love and value them.

If a person’s love language is physical touch, seek to learn what they appreciate most. For some, it will be hugs. For others, it may be backrubs or holding hands. Obviously, you need to be particularly sensitive to a person’s preferences when it comes to touch. You don’t want to make them uncomfortable in any way. You want to make them feel deeply loved.

Blessing Others with Their Love Language

Understanding the different types of love languages allows you to bless those around you. Their primary purpose is not to help you evaluate the love you receive from others. Yes, it’s good to communicate your own love language to people when appropriate. But if you constantly evaluate the actions of others based on whether they are in line with your love language, you’ll find yourself quickly discontent.

The best way to utilize the different types of love languages is to make those close to you feel truly loved and valued. God interacts with us using each of the different love languages. Understanding people’s love languages allows us to imitate God.

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