Friday, December 3, 2010

The Arena of Tough Love- Are You Knocked Out or Fighting For It?

We have all heard the term, “Tough Love.” What does it really mean? Or what does it look like played out in a relationship? It might look like having to show someone we love a firm hand of “love” in a way of possible saying some hard truths that they might need to hear to help them or standing firm on a matter that might lead to having to break off a relationship for a time until they get the help they need. Basically, holding them accountable.  Most people might disagree that this is not love, but what does God say about love and how does He sometimes show us “Tough Love?”
Love. People talk about it all the time but few really know what it really means. For some people, it is an emotion that comes and goes like the wind. When you think of it on those terms that can be a bit frightening, love should never cease to exist just because of how we feel.  Our emotions are not a something that we can trust because they are fleeting and go up and down in a matter of seconds. That is why we need something more to define it so it helps firmly plant us into a solid foundation, this is what God’s Word is for. The sad truth is we live in a world that operates just like this. People get married or have a relationship with someone and the moment that someone makes a mistake or gets hurt, they choose to walk away. No wonder we have so much divorce and broken people in the world. Noone knows how to truly love. You can find out if a person really loves you when you have walked out a trial with them that caused you both hurt and pain. Man, that can be an eye opener and you can be left disappointed because not everyone chooses to love unconditionally!
The Word of God clearly states to us what love is, however, even most Christians either are confused with it or choose not to walk in it. Quite simply, God is love. His Word is love and following His word is us showing our Love to God and to others.  It does not come in the form of feelings, being depleted by our emotions. It sounds simple, but unfortunately it can become complicated and difficult, but only because we choose not to be obedient to it. God defines love(1 Corinthians 13) as this:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.
2 John 6 says, “And what this love consists in is this  that we live and walk in accordance with and  guided by His commandments(God’s Word) This is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you continue to walk in love. “ So, we simply follow God’s Word in order to love others and God.  Not only has God defined love for us but He has given us instructions on how to love. However, it is not always easy. Ask any human that and they will agree. It is the most powerful force on this earth and it can make you or if choose not to love or are not being loved, it can break you!
Now back to tough love. Sometimes we have to show loved ones what it is to love and it comes in the form of gracious discipline to holding people to God’s word. I know for some they can’t understand this. We have to walk that example out in our daily lives, forgiving people when they have wringed and continuing to still choose to love them no matter what.

 For example, out of God’s love, compassion  and mercy for the Israelites, He allowed them to wonder in the desert for years in their own misery and sin. He did this because eventually it caused them to cry out to Him  becoming desperate for Him again. They needed to be humbled and see that they needed change. He then began to restore them once their hearts were now ready to be loved by this awesome God.  In times past, I have had to show tough love by confronting some hard truths to some people. I did it in love(according to God’s Word) and my heart had a pure motive to help them. This is not always easy and it takes a LOT of prayer  and listening to God’s timing but in the end I knew God was asking me to. At first I was fearful of hurting them but by faith and obedience to what God was asking- I did it. These people were not willing to hear it at first and walked away from me for a time  but by faith I left it alone and hoped that God would change their hearts. Eventually,He did because He is always faithful. We have to trust Him.  But here is the thing; they did hear me in the end because they TOO  yielded to God’s word too and Love won in the end!  They  chose God’s love(His word) to help change them. It took some time but the “tough love” I gave them was really good love! Not everyone is willing to bow the knee to God’s love (His word). It takes maturity and a willingness to want to be changed. Change is never easy and sometimes hurts but if we really want to walk in the fullness of God’s love we must be willing to be obedient to it first.

Sometimes we fear in giving people this kind of love and it is not something we need to be doing everyday and again I stress it takes discerning and praying and waiting on God’s timing. I have not always gotten it right and have probably failed more times then I got it right. But that is okay because God’s love covers a multitude of sin.  Our lives are a long and tedious process of learning. We must be patient with ourselves and others.  In this day and age we need more “tough love” because people are not being held accountable to their actions. It takes someone loving someone to help them with a gentle but firm instruction.  But we if we are the ones to give out the “tough love” then we must be humble ourselves when we might have to receive it. I know I have appreciated the many times someone has loved me enough to show me my errors and corrected me in love. At first, I was not always open to receiving it either but I learned slowly that God’s love for me is awesome and it changes me.  I had to yield to His word but I found out when I am on my knees in humility that is the best place I can be!
Bottom line is loving people is tough even when you are having to give “tough love” but we must be willing to be committed to one another, helping and bearing up with one another and stick it out no matter how bad it gets. This is not easy! Ask me how I know? Never mind don’t because I could be here for days on it. I encourage you today to seek your hearts and ask the Lord if there is someone whom you may have chosen not to love for whatever reason. Did they make a mistake that at the time you were unwilling to forgive or did they do something to you that hurt you that maybe you chose to stop loving them for it? Or  did someone give you “tough love” and you haven’t been willing to receive it? Whatever the case choose love! There is still time! Put aside those hurts, pains, rights and the past and move into the arena of love where there are some knock outs from time to time but each time you get up you become tougher and you love stronger! Victory is always inevitable when you are in the arena of God’s love!

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