Are You a Good Lover?
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Senior Producer
Christ told His disciples that the world would know they belong to Him because of their love for one another. How well are we displaying His love to the world? That’s the question Dr. Gary Chapman poses in his new book, Love As A Way of Life.
After the success of his book, The Five Love Languages, Chapman received a lot of positive feedback from people who embraced the book as a way to learn how to better love their spouses. However, he said, not everyone was ready to put his ideas into practice.
“I had one husband who said, ‘If it’s going to take my vacuuming floors, and my washing dishes, and my doing laundry for her to feel loved, you can forget it,’” Chapman said.
That’s when the author said he began to realize how counter-cultural it is for people to cultivate loving attitudes. In a culture that pushes people to look out for number one, or climb the ladder to success by stepping on the people beneath them, many people have become very self-centered. Unfortunately, this attitude is held even by many Christians, something that hurts the reputation of God’s people.
“In so many quarters, Christians, in particular, are not known for love,” Chapman said. “They are known for a lot of other things, but not love. And yet Jesus said, that’s the way you can tell that they belong to me by the way they love each other.”
That’s why the author set out to study love and offer a practical guide to help people become more loving.
“I think a lot of people generally would say, ‘Well, yes, I’d like to be known as a loving person,’ but they don’t quite know what that means. So I’m trying to spell it out by developing these seven traits. If you develop these things in your life, you will be a loving person. It will affect the way you respond to everybody you encounter.”
As Chapman examines the seven traits that he believes will lead to more loving attitudes, he notes that, “We love or fail to love because of habit.” Consequently, he said, changing a few small habits in your life will lead to big changes in the way you think and act.
“You can take any one of these traits and you can change one little habit in your life that moves you toward being a more loving person. You begin to repeat that and make it a habit in your life. Then you do two or three others, and before long you realize, ‘Hey, I’m becoming much more patient than I was two years ago.’”
Putting these principles into practice also improves your relationships, he said, whether it is in a marriage, in the workplace, or with friends and neighbors. In the book, he shares about how the principles changed his relationship with his wife early in their marriage.
“We were already praying about our marriage, but we were just having a horrible time,” Chapman said. “In retrospect, it was because I was very selfish, and she was pretty selfish too. Two selfish people will never have a good marriage.”
Chapman said he prayed and asked God what to do about the problems they were having. “In response to that prayer, I got a visual image of Jesus on His knees washing the feet of His followers,” he said. “It’s like God said to me, ‘That’s the problem in your marriage. You don’t have that kind of attitude.’”
As he began to put himself last, and serve his wife more, their relationship greatly improved.
In addition to changing your relationships, becoming a more loving person is worth pursuing for two other important reasons, Chapman said. The first is that loving people leads to a more fulfilling life.
“My conclusion is that the happiest people in the world are people who learn how to love,” he said.” What I’ve observed as I have gotten older is that the most satisfied people in the world as older adults are people who have really given their lives away helping others. I’ve never met anybody that regretted doing that. I meet a lot of older adults who regret that they were so self-centered in their lifestyle.”
The other reason that living a life of love is important is because our lifestyles serve as a witness to non-Christians. He points to an example of this in a story told by sociologist Roger Stark in his book, The Rise of Christianity. In the book, Stark sets out to discover how the early Christian Church grew so rapidly in the Roman Empire. He discovers that there were two epidemics of disease that destroyed a third of the Roman Empire during that time. Their secular priests and leaders immediately fled hoping to stay alive. The only people who stayed and helped care for the sick were the Christians. As a result, many people joined the Christian faith.
“They weren’t convinced to become Christians by political argument,” Chapman said. “They were convinced because they saw Christians responding to disaster. The Christians were simply being who they were, lovers.”
As a result, many people were introduced to Christ, the Divine Lover. This is the method of evangelism that Christians need to embrace again, Chapman said.
“What if the Church could rediscover her mission and her method? Would we not again attract the non-Christian world if we could do that? I believe we would.”
Watch Gary talk about his new book in this YouTube video.
Read an excerpt from the book.
More interviews and book reviews
More Spiritual Life articles
Comments? Email me
More articles by Belinda on CBN.com
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