Lucky You!! Chrissy’s Thoughts

Guess What?! You get to hear from someone else today! One of my very dearest friends, Chrissy Lawson, agreed to share her thoughts on tough love with you today.

I met Chrissy when my husband was stationed at Fort Bragg. Both of our husbands were deployed at the same time. God kindly orchestrated for Chrissy and I to work together at GNC on the base. What a blessing! Through Chrissy, I met April and through them I met Jackie and the four of us have grown in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ ever since, albeit, long distance.

Several years ago, I was actually privileged to watch Jesus woo Chrissy to Himself. Since that time, God has developed in her a heart so fully His that I have to admit, sometimes I’m jealous! I know you will enjoy hearing from her today. Please leave your comments and share your experiences with tough love in your family.

Chrissy’s thoughts:

Tough Love….

harsh or stern behavior, often thought cruel by the recipient, with the end goal of their higher good.  (Abby’s definition)

Is tough love biblical?

 

How many times were the Israelites disciplined by God?  Too many to count it seems.  Did you ever read the biblical accounts and thought, “man, that was harsh!”  I have found myself saying that every once in a while.  It’s only when we truly see the character of God that we can comprehend why he did what he did.

 

King David had wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He gathered the chosen men of Israel to go get and bring it back from the Philistines. They put the Ark on a cart and Uzzah and Ahio were leading it.

“When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God. David became angry because of the LORD’S outburst against Uzzah, and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.” 2 Samuel 6:6-8

 

Doesn’t that seem a little overboard?  God killed someone for touching the Ark. If you understand the character of God, then you understand why he did this. You see, he is HOLY, perfect and righteous. He gave the Israelites clear instructions on how to move the objects to worship him.  When David wanted to move it, no one stopped to think, “hey lets read the directions first.”  Instead they picked up what they wanted and moved on.  If they would have just looked to God first they would have seen that under no circumstances were they allowed to touch the Ark. God wasn’t lashing out at them, he was acting according to who is his.  He demands perfection and obedience to his law.

 

This incident, it led David to read the instructions and do it right the second time.  God’s laws were respected this time around.

 

Psalm 78 very clearly illustrates God’s patience and tough love with his chosen people.  The Israelites forgot so quickly the miracles that God performed all around them.  He freed them from captivity, killed the Egyptians who were trying to kill them, fed them, gave them water from a rock.  Yet they still questioned and tested him.  He became furious and allowed other  nations to capture and defeat them.  They would cry out to God and he would save them.  Isn’t that tough love?  He is the best father you could ever imagine and yet the Israelites grumbled against him!  He became furious and allowed their wicked hearts to do what they wanted and allowed the consequences.

 

But when they turned back to him, he opened his arms to them.

 

The prodigal son is a great example of a “softer” tough love.  The son asked for his inheritance early, before his father had passed.  The father did so and allowed his son to take off on his own.  When the son became so hard-up that he considered eating pig slop he realized what he had left at home.  He came home to a father with open arms.  Of course this is a parable about God’s relationship with the sinner.  But do you see that as parents we can give our children tough love?  God did it to his chosen people, and today, if our hearts are hard he does it to us.

 

When it comes to the serious things: drugs, alcohol, dishonoring and disrespecting parents, I think we should implement tough love. After much grace (which God did over and over again) we need to say enough is enough and do something about it.  Maybe it’s intervention, maybe it’s throwing them out of the house.  We need to pray and trust the God of all creation to watch over them.  We put our children in HIS hands.  When they turn from their destructive ways we open our arms and welcome them home!

 

When our children are simply rebelling and want their freedom, again I think we need to give them tough love so that they can grow.  Allow them to step out (age appropriate of course) and grow.   When they come home give them grace abundantly.  Isn’t that what God gives us?  When we mess up and then turn to him, he forgives and forgives completely.  You can’t parent without discipline and grace.

The Gospel and Tough Love

Dobson’s book, Love Must Be Tough, focuses on the practice of tough love in marriage. He advocates, in some circumstances, an offended spouse (offended by habitual infidelity) to create a crisis by stepping away from the transgressor.

Most of this week, I have wrestled with this concept. How can I (or anyone) emulate God’s unconditional love, if I appear to withdraw from the person who has sinned against me? Can it possibly be loving to draw a hard line, demanding repentance and reconciliation? Is a crisis, designed to force the sinner to face the music and the consequences of their actions, loving?

Paul compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:23-32 “For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of his body, the church; he gave his life to be her Savior. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives must submit to your husbands in everything. And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man is actually loving himself when he loves his wife. No one hates his own body but lovingly cares for it, just as Christ cares for his body, which is the church. And we are his body.
As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.”

In redemption, God paints the perfect example of tough love. In the same masterpiece, he depicts the problem of pain and makes it a beautiful work of art. Let’s look:

Eve reached up and selected the most delectable piece of fruit, dangling from a limb laden with temptation. She wondered, what have I been missing by faithfully obeying, serving and loving my creator? What delight have I not tasted by enjoying only what has been given to me? Without further thought, before she could talk herself out of it and before Adam arrived to chastise her, Eve plucked the fruit from its branch and sank her teeth into its flesh.

With one bite, Eve betrayed the One who loved her soul, the One who knew her intimately and had limited her to His own goodness. God responded with swift, tough, promised consequences. He banished Adam and Eve from His presence. God withdrew from them – no more long, sweet garden walks. Pain, sweat, tears and frustration followed Adam and Eve down their chosen path of sin.

Fast Forward:

As centuries elapse, death continues to haunt each and every man. Sickness. Pain. Failure. Sadness. Longing. Fear.

A woman who has never believed in a God, much less an intimate creator, bends over he son’s hospital bed. She had never credited God with the sculpting of his small, tanned arms that loved to throw a baseball. She hadn’t considered a Master-creator who had given her son his quick wit, cheery wink and spontaneous laughter. But, as her boy balances on the precipice between heaven and hell, life and death, now and forever, there’s no where else to go.

“God!” her heart screams. “You’re my only hope, my only refuge. You’re the only one in this room with me, the only voice my son can hear. Let him live! And if you take him, give me the grace and strength to live.”

Remember September 11, 2001? Remember how news anchors marveled at the mercy and compassion that such tragedy spawned among strangers? Remember the suddenly permissible public prayers for courage? Pain and the consequences of evil often send us running back to the one we know, the one we trust, the truth.

That’s what God’s tough love did, and that’s the hope Dobson extends in practicing tough love in human relationships.

Mean Love

OK, so we know that love must be tough in order to endure. But, must love act tough toward the object of its affection?

 

I’m reading Dr. James Dobson’s book, Love Must Be Tough. In one chapter, he presents the suggestions of psychologists who advocate a different response. I have to admit, I didn’t like any of their suggestions! Passive love is rather despicable:

 

“After you learn of your husband’s infidelity, go to him and tell him again how much you love him. Tell him you don’t intend to let him go, and indeed, that you plan to fight for him. Your persistence will tell him that there might be a chance that you will shape up.”

 

“Tell your husband that you understand what he’s done, and indicate that you realize you have given him some reason to fool around. Do not label his behavior sinful or immoral.”

 

Dobson doesn’t tell which books he is quoting from, perhaps because if he did we’d be ready to kill the authors! Who can imagine such sniveling timidity? Of course the husband’s (in this case) behavior is reprehensible!

 

In another chapter, Dobson describes tough love in the context of a puppy love, adolescent relationship. Guess what? Tough love is exactly how we often catch our partner in the beginning. It’s a cat and mouse game. It’s the girl who doesn’t fawn over her beau and leaves him dangling at the end of a phone call. It’s the woman who closes the door after a first date without a peck on the cheek or a promise to return.

 

If an unfaithful spouse can remain unfaithful and still have his (or her) spouse wrapped around their little finger – why change?

 

I looked again for a Biblical precedent, and I found a couple. In Romans 1:21-25 Paul describes man’s rebellion against his creator. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking , and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (23) “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…”(24)”Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…”.

 

And in Genesis, when the evil of man had reached a climax, God declared He would no longer tolerate their debauchery. “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” Genesis 6:3

 

Obviously, God did not abandon man forever. As we mentioned yesterday, His unquenchable love rescued man from self-damnation. But, God also displayed tough love, a love that behaved aggressively, assertively, actively. The Father’s saving love was not passive.

 

You see? I can argue both sides of the issue! I’m excited to hear your thoughts – how, when, or should love be tough?

Tough Enough to Love

Is love supposed to act tough; or is love supposed to be tough enough to endure impossible situations?

 

Lest, after reading yesterday’s post, you think that I have already made up my mind, and strongly disagree with the principle of tough love in marriage, today and tomorrow I will present the other side of the issue. I have pondered and prayed about this. I don’t want to mislead anyone. I do not want to harden anyone’s heart toward their spouse or dash their hopes of a rescued marriage.

 

I wondered: are there Biblical examples of tough love? Looking for Biblical precedent is a hobby of mine. I love to scour the Old Testament to see if there’s a similar circumstance to the one I am facing. Nine times out of ten, there is. Faithful God leads by example. Sometimes through the example of his earlier children, and sometimes through His very person.

 

Consider the cross. Love has never accomplished a more excruciating feat. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that who ever believes in Him might have everlasting life.” John 3:16

 

Because a perfect blood sacrifice was the only way to pay the cost of forgiveness from sin, God willingly made that sacrifice Himself. In the name of Love, God slaughtered His only Son. Could the price have been any higher, or the pain any more insufferable? Could love have been any tougher?

 

Consider the prodigal son. A young, belligerent son scorned his generous father. With a callous shrug, he demanded his inheritance, virtually spit in his father’s face and walked out the door. How long did it take the mutinous boy to squander his money and end up dining on pig slop? What did the father endure in that time? One thing is for sure, he loved his son.

 

When the broken, humiliated rogue stumbled up the road toward his father’s home, he only hoped to be accepted as a servant. But tough love, love that withstood abandonment and rejection ran to meet him. Strong love.

 

Is tough love appropriate in marriage? At least in this context it is. It must be. Love must be strong enough to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7