A Sixth Love Language

A Sixth Love Language

The Five Love Languages

The five love languages are familiar to many of us from the New York Times best seller by Dr. Gary Chapman of the same name. Each love language is a way a lover expresses love to his or her beloved. They are:

(1) words of affirmation,

(2) quality time,

(3) giving / receiving gifts,

(4) acts of service, and

(5) physical touch.

We can picture these working (and needing work!) in our own relationships. The insight that love can be expressed through varied forms is profound, and it has helped countless people understand their relationships.

Linking Love Languages

When a wife feels that her husband does not express his love for her enough because he rarely says, “I love you,” sometimes the truth is that he is declaring his love every time he washes her car. What links the five love languages, despite their differences, is that they are all personal and relational. They are all direct. We speak, spend time, give and receive gifts, serve, and touch people we love, whether they are our spouses, children, parents, or friends. What I’ve wondered lately is this: What if there is a sixth love language we’ve been missing?

The Sixth Love Language

One summer, several of our Antioch interns stayed at a rental home owned by one of our friends, and they were asked to take care of the lawn. None of the interns knew the owner. When the interns left at the end of the summer, the lawn was the color of dirt. Even though the owner made it clear that his sphere of concern extended to the lawn, the interns’ concern stopped short of that. When we don’t love someone else’s sphere of concern, it’s usually because we love the sphere of our own concern too much. Did the interns actively hate the green lawn? Did they long to harm the owner? No. But as a result of their inaction, they destroyed the lawn, and in so doing harmed the owner. Their own sphere of concern—their internship, building friendships with other interns, exploring Bend, and having fun outdoors—was too small to encompass what their benefactor said he cared about.

The interns claimed it was nobody’s fault that the lawn died. I’d say the opposite: it was the fault of everyone who lived there. Killing the lawn was abuse by omission. In other words, the interns needed a sixth love language, a love language that could be expressed to a stranger and that would motivate them to go beyond simply avoiding harm to actually doing good.

I wonder if that love language is justice?

We can unpack this by looking at Hosea 6:6, where God revealed what active love should look like. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” This was making a correlation between His desire for mercy and an acknowledgment of Himself. Mercy, evidently, is an acknowledgment of God.

An acknowledgment of what, exactly? Of God’s existence? Of His omniscience?

No, our mercy—which is the visible and just outworking of a tender and loving heart—is an acknowledgment that God is love. That He cares for people. That He has asked for and commanded our love and that we hear His words, understand the import behind them, and care enough about Him to follow through. When we have mercy and we forgive others, love them, bear with them, and lift them up, we are affirming or acknowledging what God desires.

God’s Love

Our love spotlights God’s love. And our mercy gives testimony to God’s mercy. But to take it further, our love must enact justice, because our justice equates to love. God doesn’t ask us to only love those who love us, or those who are easy to love. God asks us to learn a new love language, one we can speak to His entire kingdom.

[Adapted in part from Chapter 11 of Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things]


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