I’ve been considering the subject of love recently. In particular, how one can honestly show love to an individual who is participating in destructive and/or self-destructive behavior without giving the impression that the behavior is being condoned. Our society’s imbecilic idea of love would have one smiling and blowing kisses to people as they drive themselves over a cliff. That, of course, is not love, but rather, a cowardly act of self-preservation that wishes to avoid the unpleasantries of upsetting someone. That is not what I was looking for.
I remember being a little child and believing that, at times, my mother didn’t love me because she refused to condone my foolish behavior. How could she hate me so much as to suggest that what I wanted to do was wrong? It was, of course, an infantile outlook on love. As one matures, however, one begins to recognize that love is far grander than simply hugging people as they stubbornly head off into harm’s way. Being a parent myself, I now recognize the emotional sacrifice my mother made as she bore the brunt of my anger so she could truly love me.
Love is a powerful gift, but the reception of love is truly a fickle thing. There are times when someone we love is inviting catastrophe into their life and one cannot simply show up with a Hallmark card and a bouquet of roses. Yet, showing up with shackles and a baseball bat, intending to beat sense into the person is too far onto the other end of the scale. How does one show love to an individual who is living in a self-imposed cataclysm?
I was looking for more than a simple cliché quip set to the background of sunlit skies and majestic mountains. I needed something real, something practical, and above all, something Scriptural. As I pointed out in my last blog post, God is love. Therefore, if I want to learn how to love, even in the most difficult of circumstances, I need to go to Him and not search for some empty spiritual fluff.
If anyone in history has ever displayed love in the type of scenario my thoughts were centered upon, it was, without question or equal, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus loved others perfectly, and it was not always the way our society would respond to well. The Lord showed tender mercy where it was needed, but He also condemned sin unashamedly. And lest we think that He only had strong words for the “religious” lot, let us remember that the woman whom He rescued from a justifiable stoning under the Law, was also told by Him, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) We should not suppose that His final words to her were said with a sweet smile; more like a sobering look of, “Do not squander the mercy shown to you this day. I love you, but you need to stop this wrong behavior.”
One of the most notable things about the love that Jesus showed to everyone, was how often it got Him hated. Not everyone loved His love. In fact, the Lord clearly points this out in John 7:7 when He said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” Jesus was well aware that if He wanted to show true love to all, He would have to deal with the hatred such love could generate – similar to what my dear mother prepared herself to endure when she denied her young son carte blanche on every impulse.
You see, real love is not based in thoughts of, “What kind of return will I get out of this?” or “How will this make me feel?” Real love is anchored in truth; not the arbitrary relative truth that our society wishes to embrace, but absolute truth. The truth that there is right and wrong and that wrong actions bring about bad consequences. Truth that can be expressed with compassion, but may bring a stinging backlash against a person nonetheless.
Real love will sacrifice and take the pain. It will not attempt to avoid the pain by pretending all is well or by refusing to clearly warn another of the danger of their choices. In fact, real love can be so painful at times, that people would much rather settle for the counterfeit version that fabricates the mirage that all is well.
Real love speaks truth, not rudely, but compassionately. Nonetheless, that truth, no matter how compassionately it is delivered, may be returned with hatred. Real love may hurt and it may even leave scars upon the person giving that love. The Lord Jesus Christ knows that all too well; His body still retains the scars of His love given to us.
There is no warm and fuzzy answer here when it comes to showing love to one who is on a path of self-destruction. If you truly wish to love them, then you had better prepare yourself for pain. If you are not willing to endure that pain, then simply smile and say nothing… but stop pretending that you love the person. If Jesus “loved” like that, we’d all be hell-bound with no hope.
If you are facing this type of difficult situation today, my prayers go with you. Be strong, be truthful, love like Jesus does, and don’t be shy about shedding some tears in your coffee. Bring your pain before the Lord in prayer as you endure the hatred you may receive for your love, and He who shed His blood for you will see you through.
Until next time, may your coffee and contemplations be rich and fulfilling.