Too many people mistake codependent abuse, or sentimental affections (including lust), for love. Too few people go to the trouble to instill proper discipline, or create endearing sentiments for others.
Here, I will first expound upon one of my preponderances about love.
Personally, I have come to believe that when someone says that they “love” a certain person, they mean that in a very subjective sense. They do NOT mean to say that they make a point to concentrate on identifying that persons spiritual needs and then go to all the hard work and effort to construct a selfless Christian love towards that person, solely for that persons edification, which is a step beyond merely contributing a benefit. This would truly be love. For benefiting the lives of others is a mark of kindness, which exhibits the excellent will of humanity, while edifying others is the sublime and strenuous work done towards manifesting the grace of God, which is necessary to sanction repentance and foster the processes of healing and maturing in another.
Instead, it would be remarkably closer to the truth to assume that the other person is doing this effort for them, and as a result, they are free to experience the loving gracefulness of God. The recipient of such love would then naturally, however erroneously, vocalize their experience as feeling “love” for the other person. But to express the sentiment of feeling loved as being the same as loving someone belies a naïve and inefficatious misconception.
To illustrate this sentiment based perception of love, let’s consider Luke 10:25-37 (NKJV).
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Using an anecdotal story based on this passage, the sentimental brand of love that is popular today would be like the man who was robbed and beaten saying that he loves the good Samaritan, or even the robber (because Christ told us to “love our enemies”), while in reality, it was the good Samaritan who loved the man who was beaten. In other words, the one who is loved mistakes his forgiveness, or his feelings, respectively, for being authentic love. But this seems to be the common misperception of love these days. Robbers might even believe that they “love” their victims, because they showed enough mercy to “let them live”. How far can the concept of love and mercy be twisted?
Sadly, there are too few people who recognize that the people in our lives (Jesus called them our “neighbors”) play a major role in the expression of God’s mercy and grace to our lives. Most people would gladly prefer to leave the grace of God to chance and circumstances, while clinging to the lazy excuse of a notion that the grace of God can only be shown through an act of God.
To have a successful, vibrant relationship with another person, both must edify the other on a continual basis, having the tacit understanding that they must trust each other to do so.
Real love doesn’t always produce feelings of fondness and affection in the one being loved. But it’s very important to discern the distinction between authentic love, and “toxic love” (AKA codependent abuse).
For example, some bad behaviors are inherently rewarding, and so the introduction of a harsh consequence (i.e. a negative stimulus in operant conditioning) is the only way to motivate the person to stop their destructive behaviors. Sometimes, discipline is absolutely necessary to produce understanding, respect, and the self-control necessary to build a solid relationship.
This is what the writer of Proverbs was referring to in the following verse.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” ~ Proverbs 27:6 (NKJV)
In other words, not everyone who offends you is your enemy, and not everyone who pleases you is your friend. So if you don’t feel those fond emotions swelling up inside you, don’t be so quick to write it off as a lack of love.
On the other hand, unfortunately, many people are so broken by a long history of abuse, that they are drawn to continue that cycle of abuse, simply because it makes them “feel loved”.
They are confused, and misled. There is a world of a difference between discipline, and abuse. Do not make that mistake.
The cultural zephyrs of the day desire to blind us with blanket truthiness, leading us to believe the following.
- If it feels good, it must be love.
- All offense is hate.
- All discipline is abuse.
But to believe these lies would be the same as condemning powerful expressions of love that are so desperately needed in this age.
Do not fall victim of this slight of hand. Do not become sensitive sluggards in your love. For apathy is the opposite of love, not hate.
A Challenge: Try to identify just one person in your life, who has such an attitude of love towards your relationship, i.e. someone who has disciplined you righteously, and who makes you feel loved. Acknowledge your gratitude to that person today. Go and tell that person, if possible. Thank him or her for loving you.
A Second Challenge: Take what you have learned from that person who loved you, and try to love one other person in a similar manner. Choosing to love a person who respects and admires you would be a wise move.
- Sigma Frame: Love Is As Love Does (September 29, 2015)