Conflicted Love

Posted on February 13, 2013 · Posted in Godward Orientation, Parenting

If you were to ask Christians if they loved their spouse, what answer would you expect?

If you were to ask Christians if they loved their children, what answer would you expect?

If you were to ask Christians if they ever struggle with joyfully loving their family when their family is unkind to them, what answer would you expect? 

 

For most the answers would be yes, yes, and sadly, yes.

 

The Apostle Paul continues explaining what love is not in the remainder of verse five of I Corinthians 13. We have looked at love is not rude. Now here are two more love is not’s:

 

Love is not self-seeking,

Love is not easily angered,

 

These two negative statements provide at least some insight as to why we struggle with loving those close to us. Let’s take a look.

 

Love is not self-seeking.

 

Self-seeking is our default mode. The first consideration of the flesh is what is in this for me. If I am good, if I love, what do I get in return? This is not love, it is collective bargaining.

 

Love is not a relational tool that can be used for self-protection. If Christ is the example, then love can’t be concerned with getting what I want. Love at its root is self-sacrificing, not self-serving.  We say we love our children and our spouses, but are we ready to serve them in selfless love? 

 

Love is not easily angered.

 

If you are easily angered, read the comments about self-serving again. Quick-tempered, easily combustable anger shouts that my needs are not being met.  

 

One way that we justify anger is when we perceive that someone has hurt us by what they have said. God has called you to love and compassion, not a quick temper. When someone is clearly not where they should be, this is an opportunity to return good for evil. This is an opportunity to show Christ instead of hurt feelings. James 1:19-20 applies here:

 

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

 

Being self-seeking leads to being easily angered which leads to being hurt.

 

Hurt caused by others can lead to anger, bitterness, and discouragement. This is where God has to be first, not second in your life. If your child or spouse says something hurtful, put it in context. Have you ever said something hurtful to God or about God? Something like, “you know what, life stinks, I just can’t take anymore stuff from these selfish kids or my stupid spouse. How did I ever get in this mess?”

 

While this complaint on the surface is directed at other people, these words are really targeted at God. You are saying, in effect, that God blew it. And probably never gave it a second thought that your words were hurtful to God. (Ephesians 4:30) Even at this, God does not treat us as our sins deserve. When people have been terribly cruel and hurtful, human anger doesn’t help bring you closer to God. 

 

When wrong has been done you can trust that God will resolve things as he thinks best.  What really matters is your standing with God and not the people who have tried to hurt you. You have a choice to make. You can be hurt and angry or you can believe that God will resolve the matter. You can believe the Bible over your own hurt and rejoice that God will resolve things perfectly. You can praise him for this even before the matter is resolved here on earth. In this light, being hurt is a choice, not a requirement, when someone close says something unkind to you.

 

Biblical love avoids deep scars that last for years. Biblical love opens our eyes to our craving for self-service. Biblical love keeps us from an ugly quick temper. Biblical love reminds us that we can love because Christ first loved us. Biblical love is not conflicted.

 

Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.