Tough Love is Real Love

Everyone wants the blessings that come from God, but not everyone wants to do what is required to get them.

Everyone likes hearing they will be blessed so anyone preaching that message can draw large crowds. But if all we ever hear about is the blessings, we won’t see them manifesting in our life because they don’t come automatically. Unless certain conditions are met, the blessings stop flowing.

So it is misleading to tell people they will be blessed without telling them what they must do to qualify. Without knowing how to get the blessings believers must resort to worldly tactics to get what they want, which means demanding, conniving, controlling, manipulating, and taking it away from someone else.

The crowds followed Jesus as long as they were getting blessed. They had no problems with him healing their bodies or multiplying their food or raising their dead. It was all good until he told them what God required from them. Then almost all of his followers turned and walked away (John 6:44-66).

As a result of his teachings many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. But even after watching them walk away, he still did back down. Instead, he turned to his most dedicated group of 12 disciples and challenged them.

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67)

His disciples were free to leave him if they wanted to. Jesus gave them the liberty to make their own choices. Even his closest disciples, the twelve, were always free to leave at any time. But the message he preached was not negotiable, not on the table for compromise, not up for a vote. If you don’t like it, you can hit the road because it is not going to change. This is tough love, but it is real love.

So we must decide whether or not to tell people the whole truth or just the parts they want to hear. We must decide whether we are seeking a following for ourselves or genuinely trying to help people get blessed. We must decide whether it is about us or about them.

Because God wants us to be blessed, He has made it clear what we must do to qualify. The good news is anyone who is willing to do what He requires can receive his blessings. More good news is there is no limit to how much he wants to bless us. The only limitation is whether or not we are willing to meet his qualifications.

It seems to be part of our human nature that we want something for nothing. We want the blessings without giving anything in return. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. There is no way around it either. This system cannot be rigged or compromised no matter who we are or who we know.

Now here is the sticky part, the part most people don’t want to hear. Are you ready? Here it comes!

To get the blessings of God, we must surrender our heart and life to him and repent from our sins! Repentance is not just telling God we are sorry. Repentance means we ask for forgiveness AND we stop sinning. Yikes! This is the point where most people say, “See ya!”

If we really want to be blessed we must humble ourselves before God, admit we have been wrong, and commit to changing our behavior to obey his commandments completely with every thought, word, and deed.

He told me one time, “If you want more of the things that belong to me, you must first give me more of the things that belong to you.”

Does this mean there is something wrong with us? I didn’t say that, but the Bible says there are none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). The question is not whether or not we have a problem with sin. That question has already been answered. If we were born on planet earth, unless our name is Jesus the Messiah, we have a problem with sin. We are all messed up sinners so we all need to repent before God.

Jesus said the light has come into the world but men loved the darkness more than the light. They refused to come to the light because they were afraid their evil deeds would be exposed (John 3:20).

So if we want the good part, we must first deal with the messy part. This is the issue that separates believers from unbelievers, sheep from goats, saved from lost, eternal life from eternity in hell.

The world offers a solution to avoid the messy sin issue. Just pretend like sin doesn’t exist! Or if it exists, pretend it really has no consequences. Or if it has consequences, pretend they are not severe. Or if they are severe, pretend they won’t last forever. So the world has created a new, improved God that allows them to keep their sinful lifestyle. This is why we now have churches filled with homosexuals, including the pastors. They have re-written the Bible to suit themselves.

But we’re not just picking on homosexuals because heterosexuals are doing the same thing. Churches are filled with couples living together outside of marriage, yet it never gets confronted or mentioned from the pulpit. Meanwhile those who are married are committing adultery, but nobody talks about that either. Let’s just talk about getting blessed!

All this compromise in the church has given us a church that is just like the world. There really isn’t any noticeable difference. In America today, believers have the same divorce rate, same bankruptcy rate, same teenage pregnancy rate, same drug abuse rate, same diseases, same everything as the rest of the world. In fact, research shows some of these numbers are even higher among believers than unbelievers. What a mess!

If the Lord is truly our Lord then we must obey everything he said. We cannot cherry pick only the things we want to hear. Jesus talked about the realities of a literal burning, eternal hell about as much as he talked about any other topic. He also gave us frequent warnings about the consequences of sin. To omit these truths is twisted and inspired by hell itself.

But didn’t Jesus preach a message of love and acceptance? That depends on which Jesus we are talking about, the pretend Jesus manufactured to suit ourselves or the real Jesus of the Bible. The real Jesus preached this, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). He and his disciples repeatedly preached repentance. He also said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish” (Luke 13:5).

It is true that God loves people, but that does not mean he loves their sinful lives. God hates sin because it hurts people and stops the flow of his blessings.

The same Jesus who taught us to love one another is the same Jesus who made whips and used them to whip the merchants who had set up shops in the temple. He is the same one who openly rebuked the religious leaders of his day, calling them snakes and vipers. Some would say that was not very loving, but he was showing us real love. It was another side of love that people have rejected.

Jesus showed us many examples of tough love. He never backed away from saying exactly what his Father told him to say, even if it caused people to stop following him. He knew he was acting in love because he was offering them exactly what they needed to hear, whether they liked it or not.

In the 1930’s, a young Christian theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrestled with this issue when the Nazis took control of his home country of Germany. As a young man, he had always believed it was wrong for Christians to commit any acts of violence against their fellow man. However, his views were put to the test when he watched the Nazis raid home after home, dragging away innocent Jewish people and sending them to their death death camps. He wrote a book called “Ethics,” in which he wrestled with these issues. He finally came to the realization that it was more wrong for him to sit by and idly watch these atrocities than it was for him to do something about it. He became part of the underground resistance movement and was one of the leaders in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Bonhoeffer and his associates knew they could save millions of innocent lives if they could kill Hitler. Their assassination attempt failed. Dietrich was captured by the Nazis and executed. Although his plan did not succeed, his life story makes an interesting case study for why it is necessary for good people to sometimes use tough measures to act in the most loving way. It is easy to proclaim platitudes of peace from an ivory tower. It is much harder to hold onto that view when you see atrocities committed right before your eyes against people you dearly love.

Using this same principle of tough love, the Apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian believers not to associate with any so-called Christian brother who is living in sin. In the scripture passage shown below, Paul instructed them not to even eat with such sinners.

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler; not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11 NASB)

Paul is not talking about people who are honest enough to admit they are living in sin. He is talking about people who masquerade as believers while living in sin. They present themselves one way but act another way. These people need a wake-up call and that is what Paul is instructing us to give them.

I am convinced there are millions of believers who have bought into the world’s concept of love. Parents raise their kids with the misguided belief that they should bail their kids out whenever they get into trouble. Parents make a big mistake by not allowing their kids to suffer the consequences of their behavior because the kids never come to the place where they learn they have to make changes. As a result, they never stop the behavior that got them into trouble in the first place. So the pattern continues to repeat itself again and again. This is not how love behaves.

Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is give people a wake-up call. If we have fallen asleep while driving our car, and our car is headed toward a cliff, would we prefer to have the other drivers on the road just let us continue on our way or would we rather they took drastic measures to get us to wake up? What if they had to come alongside our car and ram into it to get our attention? We would be glad they did whatever it took to wake us up! Ramming our car does not sound very loving, but if it results in waking us up and saving our life then it was the most loving thing they could do.

Sin has the effect of dulling our spiritual senses, causing us to be spiritually asleep or even spiritually dead. In that condition, we literally need a wake-up call. If sin had no consequences, as some say, then it would be okay to let us keep sleeping. But the consequences of sin are very real and the stakes are very high. Our eternal life is on the line. The most loving thing people can do is help us wake up, even if it requires tough measures.

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