Tough Love

“Love knows no limits to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that stands when all else has fallen.” – Elisabeth Elliot

In our culture, love is a nice, friendly kind of word. It brings to mind warm, fuzzy feelings toward people we care about. But that’s not the kind of love Jesus impressed upon his hearers in Matthew 5.

Contrast this:

“Never love anyone who treats you as if you’re ordinary.” – Oscar Wilde

vs.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Mt. 5:44

“Match their investment” – a modern spin on love those who love you

vs.

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.  And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Mt 5:39-42

Loving your neighbor as yourself has nothing to do with their conduct or response. So why should we love?

  • God requires us to do so. Scripture proclaims love as the highest virtue, and repeatedly commands us to love. Furthermore, practicing this tough love stores up treasure in Heaven (Mt. 5:44-46).
  • We want to be the kind of people who love others. It’s analogous to the gentleman/lady principle. A man is not a gentleman if he treats women with respect when they act like ladies. A man is a gentleman if he treats all women with respect as a matter of course, because of his convictions.

It seems that God wants us to love the people who annoy us, anger us, and hurt us the most. Pray for them – not just for God to show them the light, but mainly for His blessings on their lives. This is radical love.

Frankly, this kind of love hurts. It is draining and painful to love without receiving in return. But in the end, I think it’s probably this totally other-focused love that fulfills the words of 1 Corinthians 13: ‘Love never fails.’ It’s also the kind of love that will bring us to our knees and show us that we can’t love without being connected to the Vine. It’s the love that reflects the heart of God.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:6-10

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