Saturday, July 28, 2012

Painful Love

The sting of tears upon my cheeks, quickened heart rate, eyes dilated, soul in angst...all symptoms of my pride being lovingly confronted by friends or family members who cared enough to speak truth into my life. They loved me enough to follow the Spirit's leading in doing something we all find uncomfortable - gently pointing out sin that's in need of repentance and, consequently, beautiful deliverance & forgiveness from the Savior. I can't express enough gratitude (now!) for those painful, uncomfortable moments when the Lord has used a fellow human being (be it my husband, sisters, parent, or friend) to lead me into a revelation of sin patterns in my life. I didn't see these fellow brothers or sisters as 'judging' me but rather loving me enough to want to see me become more like Jesus. They were speaking truth to me, praying for me, encouraging me....loving me. i wrote this post (below) awhile back but never posted it. It's funny how God's timing works since just in the past few weeks, it's been a burden upon my heart and i 'happened' to run across this draft when i was cleaning out my docs. Anyway, I pray it encourages even just one other person out there - whether you are weighed down at seeing someone you deeply love persist in their sin or you are that person who needs to be broken by the Spirit's sweet, life-giving conviction...

I remember my mom leading us girls through the book, A Shepherd's Look at Psalm 23. It left such an impression upon me. I learned that our Father is loving at all times, even in His discipline. Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

Recently, I’ve read stuff on fb and engaged in conversations with friends about how truly loving someone as the Father loves us can sometimes be quite painful. When someone you love is in sin and is not desiring accountability and repentance from said sin struggle, that person may accuse their friend of ‘not being loving’ when confronted with their sin. True, biblical love is kind, gentle, gracious, but it’s also not going to compromise the truth for comfort. It doesn’t enable or merely appease; rather, it’s mission is to rescue and redeem, even if that means stepping out on a limb with pithy words of loving rebuke and risking ‘offending’ that friend who just doesn’t want to hear what you have to say.

Granted, there’s a time, a place, and even an attitude that we must be crying out for the Spirit to give us when we go to another person we love to speak truth to them. But, overall, so much teaching on this topic in modern-day Christianity is watered down, weak. Therefore, it seems it’s a much-needed topic of discussion amongst Christian circles today, especially in our comfortable Western culture.

The Refiner's fire alluded to in the Proverbs does not represent a comfortable place to be in for the Christian nor do the Master Gardener's pruning shears John talks about in the NT. We serve a gentle Shepherd but we also serve a holy God who cannot and will not tolerate sin patterns in the lives of His children. He is a jealous lover and will stop at nothing to make us more like Himself, if indeed we are truly His. I’m reminded that anything that beautifies is almost always painful at some point – Michelangelo’s chisel upon hard, tough rock endlessly chipping away to create his ‘David’, a red-hot iron pressed down upon an ugly wrinkled heap to reveal what is really a glorious ball gown, the farmer’s perennial physical pain from laboring to produce a fruitful, abundant crop.

Because of what Jesus did in our place - taking the ultimate punishment for us upon Himself - we get to now share in the glorious journey of becoming increasingly like Him in all His beauty with each step in this life…‘we go from strength to strength, from glory to glory’.

But there are times when stubborn sin patterns must be dealt with in such a serious way that desperate – seemingly ‘harsh’ – measures MUST be taken to rescue us from ourselves. And our God does not shy away from doing whatever it takes in our lives to purge us from that sin and to set us from ‘the powers and principalities of darkness’ that threaten to hold us captive to death…be it our stubborn sin, demonic spiritual bondage, the fatal lure of the world, or a combination of all three.

Much like an earthly father makes the heartbreaking decision to demonstrate ‘tough love’ in turning out his precious, but drug addicted son onto the streets instead of enabling his habits within the comfort of home, our God will stop at nothing – even breaking us in our pride & rebellion much like a shepherd would break the legs of his wandering sheep* - to purge us, refine us, discipline us. This is done not because He delights in seeing us suffer or that He is a callous God but because He loves us enough to harshly deal with our sin, to rescue us from death, and then to gently woo us unto Him. Hosea is a beautiful allegory of this kind of love. We serve a gentle Shepherd, yes. But we also serve an Almighty and perfectly Holy God who is very serious about sin.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul addresses sexual sin rampant within the church. He makes no bones about that fact that those involved must be severely dealt with in hopes of them repentantly returning unto the Lord and back within the fellowship of the body. vs 1-5 say, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you…And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of the Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” Our God, who is both a gentle, tender Shepherd AND a perfect, holy Judge whose wrath against sin cannot be put into words, sometimes allows His children ‘to be handed over to Satan’ not to ultimately destroy them, but to destroy their flesh that their soul may be saved before it is too late. Harsh as it sounds, that is Grace.

That is Love.

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart ~ Isaiah 40:11

*it goes without saying that the shepherd breaking the legs of his sheep should NOT be seen as a literal discipline model for human parents, for any form of physical abuse is completely unbiblical & demonic. It was a method intended for sheep, not people. But if our God, in His greater plan of sovereign love, allows us to be broken either physically (illness, disability, etc) or spiritually in some way in order to make us more like Him, to Him be all the glory. The book of Job deals a lot with this – very helpful. 

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