It’s not easy to live in a foreign country. No matter how long you’ve been there the language is still a challenge. My friend, Jenny, knows this from experience.
We have been the best of friends ever since my freshman year in high school—I won’t tell you how many years that has been! We were band geeks together. We laughed at the same things, and cried together when guys broke our hearts. Best of all, when she became a follower of Jesus the change in her was so marked that I wanted what she had. Largely because of her, I came to faith myself soon after. She is my sister of the heart.
After graduating college Jenny went to Japan as a short-term missionary. That two-year commitment changed when she met Hiroshi and fell in love. After a short separation when she came back to the States, they married and returned to Japan. Thirty years have gone by since.
Japanese is her primary language now, and she even dreams in it. But it’s such a complex language that she still struggles with it on occasion. The same principle holds when she teaches English in the high school. It’s just as hard to teach a foreign language as it is to learn one! In one of her recent emails she acknowledged how difficult it can be.
“I work too hard at teaching people how to speak a language that they're not really interested in anyway “, she admitted.
My heart was pierced. God wants to teach me a new language, one in which He is already fluent. His is the language of love. Like Jenny’s students, sometimes I’m just not interested in learning it.
Why is that?
Well, for one thing it’s hard!
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
It’s also incredibly counter to my nature.
I’m a selfish person, and I want what I want. I love Jesus and do want to please Him, so I try to learn this language of love. But it doesn’t come naturally, and I really don’t know how to speak it.
My feelings get hurt, and I crawl into my shell to escape it instead of loving the other person enough to look past that hurt in order to understand what they are feeling.
My motives are doubted, and instead of considering the validity of what that person is saying I become defensive, and check out of the conversation.
I assume the best about myself before I assume the best about others. It’s not that I don’t care about other people; I do! But it bears little resemblance to the unchanging, unconditional, unselfish kind of love that God has for us and wants to see in us. God’s kind of love cares more about the other person than having its own way.
How do I know? Because the Bible tells me about the sacrificial love Jesus has for us; ”Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Matthew 15:13). And as I read I am again convicted that I don’t how to love like that.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
And like any sword, it hurts. But it’s good pain, for it reveals what is deepest in my heart and shows me new ways to learn this language of love. Only Jesus can help me. Only He can change me.
I am hopeful, for while I have a lot to learn, I know a really good Teacher.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5
1. How well do you know this “language of love” that is so pleasing to God?
2. Describe a time when you struggled to love someone. How did it feel?
3. Describe a different time when you felt completely loved. By whom? And how did that feel?
4. What made the difference?
Father, I am so grateful that Your kind of love is perfect. Please, teach me to love like You do, to speak the kind of love that draws people to want to know You for themselves. I know that apart from You I can do nothing, but that with You all things are possible.