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Tough Love

March 29th, 2010

“Whoever says to the guilty, ‘You are innocent’ – people will curse him.” Proverbs 24:24 NIV

“It is not right to say something is all right when it is not right at all.”

My thoughts today are about “tough love.”

We live in a strange world where some people confuse bad with good, and pronounce good as though bad. Sometimes it is tough to keep all that straight. The problem is relativism, the presumed right to reject any absolutes whatsoever. Like the National Bureau of Standards for weights and measures, God’s Word is a trusted absolute, an impeccable, accurate standard.

Without an objective standard, everything becomes subject to each person’s differing perspective and opinion, therefore inconsistent and confusing. Some people and politicians often seem governed only by their personal or political ideology and situational expediency. One could complain and accuse except that, if not careful, you and I are just as subjective, deciding matters by our own preference and prejudice. It is not right to say something is all right when it is not right at all – or to declare that something is not right, when it is.

How does today’s verse apply? In an attempt to help, you may not recognize when your best efforts are not as helpful as you intend. Generally, indulging another’s bad habits does not readily fix what needs fixing. A noted pastor of many years observed wisely to me, “People in long term difficulties do not need a hand-out as much as they need a hand up.” See Acts 3:6-8 NIV.

There are compassionate acts when grace is rightly needed. Differentiate that from enabling wrongdoing that allows mistakes over and over without real consequence. Solomon applies that reality to declaring the guilty as innocent when they are not, but says that will come back to your harm and theirs. Rescuing someone from the wrong choices rarely does them any favor; you might ease your pain from seeing their distress and difficulty, but just medicate their eventual pain of facing reality. What they need to do is call on God and make better choices and necessary changes.

One of David’s penitential psalms reveals how God allowed David to suffer from his unconfessed sins until his pain cried out to God for release not relief. See Psalm 32. Imagine the harm had others assured David of his innocence when he knew that he was not. It’s called tough love, and it is appropriately named; it is often as tough to give as to receive. Tough love will not let you say yes to someone just because that is easier, when saying no is kinder, wiser, and more loving.

Read Luke 15:11-23 NIV. How long and how many times do you think the father in Jesus’ story wanted to go search and bring his son back home? Though the boy remained in his father’s heart every day he was gone; he would be in his father’s home when he wanted to truly be there, on something other than his own terms. It was a necessary process. “He spent everything . . he began to be in need . . he longed to fill his stomach . . he came to his senses . . he got up and went to his father.” Let your heart quickly turn toward home where Father waits with welcome.

My prayer for you today is: know right from wrong, good from bad; do not compromise.

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