Recently, our church started an English as a Second Language program. The day before class this week, I was at the grocery store and saw a new-to-our-class Middle Eastern couple in the produce section.
I immediately changed direction so I could talk to them. I re-introduced myself, as they had only been in class one time. As I called them by name, they just beamed. Their daughter told me they were very excited to be part of our class.
The next day, a mutual friend told me they talked all evening about how nice it was to see me and how they couldn’t wait to back to class. I believe it’s because they felt seen and known.
Just as names matter, words are essential, too. In Hebrew, the letters that make up words are rich and full, and they give so much meaning to the whole. A Hebrew word truly is the sum of its parts. I love the word-picture richness of the Hebrew language!
This month, we’ve heard ways to love others well as other writers have shared and explored different aspects of love. All month, one word kept coming back to me…ahavah. Not ‘ah-ha, I have it,’ but a Hebrew word for love.
The root ahav has only three letters. In English, that’s tiny, but in Hebrew word pictures, it’s so much more vibrant.
The first letter of the alphabet, aleph, represents oneness with God. We can see the word-picture in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” Just as the Hebrew alphabet starts with God, love starts with God. When we love Him with all our heart, soul and strength, we love others through Him and for Him.
The next letter in ahav is hei, the fifth letter in the alphabet. This letter represents God’s grace, through which He loves us. We reciprocate God’s love by obeying his commandments, as seen in John 14:15, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” This tiny letter with three lines shows us a picture of loving God with our heart, soul and strength.
The last letter in ahav is beit. It is the second letter of the alphabet and it’s meaning represents a house. Ahavah starts with loving God and showing love to others through our words, thoughts and actions. When we live this way, it shows submission to God, and our lives become a ‘house’ for Him to inhabit. A place for Him to work through us to show His love to those we encounter every day.
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
In Hebrew, the parts of ahav teach us love is connected directly with obedience and action. We show obedience to God by obeying His commandments and it leads us to the action of seeing and knowing others, ultimately showing His love.
I’m not perfect, and I forget a ton! However, my new friends reminded me this week that love through obedience and action can start simply with calling people by their name.
Who is your love-starts-with-a-name this week?
Chandalee and Keith have called Stuart Heights Church ‘family’ for almost 20 years. She has served as the Women’s Ministry Director for most of those. They have two young adults in college and one in high school. Chandalee has a passion for Biblical history and equipping women with tools and confidence to study Scripture on their own. Teaching the Bible is her ‘sweet spot,’ and loves that God has given her the opportunity to do that on a regular basis! Chandalee fills her days with books of all genres, writing and exploring new gluten-free recipes!