Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Tough Love" in the Jesus community

In an earlier post we looked at loving the difficult brother or sister in Jesus. It was suggested there that we needed to see them as Jesus. Maybe a stretch scripturally, yet a point I think that can plausibly be made.

"Tough love" is demonstrated when we do the hard but necessary thing for someone. For example, in families disciplining children is necessary, whether through a "time out", spanking, etc. Children must not be left without loving correction.

In our relationship to God as Father we find that he disciplines all of his children. And that this discipline is not pleasant, but painful. But God in his wisdom does this out of love for us and for our good.

In the Jesus community tough love is needed but seldom practiced, it seems. I mean a genuine kind of love. Not the "love" that jumps down someone's throat. Or is impatient towards someone because of something not liked about them.

Tough love is hard to practice in the Jesus community because it is so rare. It is easily misunderstood as being harsh. And being harsh is not as rare, so this tough, though true love can be avoided and looked down on.

Love covers over a multitude of sins to be sure. However there is a time for tough love to be extended with a tender heart to one who is sinning in some way. This should surely be a last resort kind of action. Prayer and love towards the sinning person should precede "tough love". And time as well. One should not have the spirit of quickness to dispense "tough love". All too often this action undertaken quickly is done so in anger. Then it is hardly love.

The one practicing "tough love" must do so in humility and love, genuinely caring about the one they are so loving. And knowing that they are susceptible to fall into the same error.

Tough love can be verbal or nonverbal. It should be appropriate according to what it is addressing. Not making public that which is not public. It normally involves coming alongside someone with a spirit of quietly questioning them. This may help them work through an issue, as needed, themselves. Think of how Nathan confronted David as one example of helping someone confront their own behavior.

An act of tough love is for the goal of bringing a hardened heart to repentance and change in their actions. The ultimate goal is restoration of complete fellowship with each other as sin directly or indirectly blocks this fellowship.

Lord, Let us not be afraid to do what may be difficult in giving "tough love" where it's needed. But let us do so only after patience and prayer. And only with a loving heart. Let us be quick and joyous to see your answer, even the beginning of it. Let us be led by you in this process. Knowing we very well may be the one some time who needs the same. Amen.


Janet & Seth said...

Ted, wonderful post. I was commenting on another blog about this very subject. I think that some christians today confuse the difference between "love" and emotion. Maybe they feel that it is more "loving" to ignore conflicts or focus on "the feelings" as a measure of truth. My kind of love is harder than simply being a "yes" person. I love you, I speak truth to you, I recognize that I am not without faults, but I work hard to stay faithful... it can get messy. Christians tend to languish in an idealized concept of love that rarely resembles the Christ modeled to us. One that is more of a Jesus is my "boyfriend" style or one that makes Jesus into a wimpy hippie type. Ick. PLease write more about this! Thanks! Janet

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks Janet for your encouragement and for sharing your good thoughts on this matter.

A tough subject is tough love. Not one I like to run to.