Titus 3:3-5 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
According to the book “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five basic ways in which people express love to others, or perceive that others love them. He lists them as 1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Quality Time Together, 3) Receiving Gifts, 4) Acts of Service, and 5) Physical Touch. Each of us perceives one or two of these ways as an expression of love most clearly. Unfortunately, many of our relationships are with people who give and receive love in a different way than we do. You may have run in to this yourself. Your mother tries to show people she loves them by giving little gifts. What you have always longed for is to have her make time to spend some quality time with you. These kinds of differences lead to strained relationships, hurt feelings, and the perception that we are not loved.
It might seem that such differences would be easy to figure out and overcome. Unfortunately, sinners like us are not naturals when it comes to giving and receiving love. How does Paul describe our natural state? “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” As we grow in faith, perhaps our lives don’t look as bad on the outside as the pessimistic picture Paul paints here. He does, after all, say that this description was true “at one time,” in the past. But we should never forget that this is the default setting of our sinful nature. We easily slip into it under stress or temptation. People enslaved by their own passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, being hated and hating others, are not inclined to try to figure out how to love someone else. We, too, can be more or less content to be mad at someone. We are satisfied that we don’t like them and that they don’t like us. Then we have made ourselves unappealing to God as well. It should not surprise us if he chose to discard us and leave us forever alone.
But that is not what he has done. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” How much does God love you? He didn’t wait until we started doing better to save us. He didn’t save us because of righteous things that we had done. He so loved us that he sent a Savior for us just as we were. Jesus was born, and lived, and died to pay for the lovelessness we call sin. In his mercy he has forgiven it all.
Doesn’t this kindness and love in the person of Jesus our Savior speak the love language of us all? God has shown us his love by giving us a gift. It certainly wasn’t something we earned. Just because he loves us so, our Lord was willing to give us forgiveness, life and salvation as a gift of his grace. He was willing to pay the dearest price to purchase that gift in giving up his own life.
God has shown he loves us by acts of service. That is what Jesus’ life and death for us is. From start to finish he was serving us. So thorough was this service to us that he left no part of our salvation for us to do.
In the manger we find our God actually coming to earth to live as one of us. For the next 30 years Jesus spent quality time with his people, teaching and being present, another evidence of his love. Though we do not see him now, he has not ceased spending time with us. He is present in his word and in the faith that message kindles in our hearts.
In coming to live with us, Jesus did not exist as a bodiless spirit. He became a real human being. For the next 30 years his physical touch communicated love to the people he healed, and embraced, and comforted. In baptism and communion, he expresses his love not only in the words of promise, but in water, bread, and wine we taste and feel. You and I look forward to feeling touch of his loving hands when he takes us home to himself in heaven.
Finally, Jesus has left us so many words of affirmation, four gospels worth, an entire Bible’s worth. He claims us as his children, his brothers and sisters, his friends. His love flows through every word of the gospel.
So much love is wrapped up in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord. It continues in the ministry of his word that brings his love to us today. Our God speaks the language of our hearts, whatever it might be, and when he speaks we can clearly hear his love.