She hurt me because I loved her, but my brand of love was not what she wanted. She just wanted the money, to get out of a rent rut dug by gambling away her funds. I became an ogre, the cold-hearted one who may be the cause of her having to move (though the rut came long before I said no to her latest request). So she called me a once-upon-a-time whore, a false prophet and an ingrate, not in those terms, but she reminded me of how she didn’t judge me during my days of sexual indiscretions, how I misinterpreted a definite message I received from God, how she financially helped my friend in high school and how she helped me make a large purchase more than 20 years ago. My loved one has sought to crush me so I would cave in on my decision to not facilitate her receiving rent money. She’s not ready to quit the game but always thinks she can just modify her play, something she has told herself for almost 20 years. Her strikes cut deep and have wounded me, knowing her desperation would cause her to try to wound me to willingness, and that her addiction magnifies her inability to see who I now am. But I won’t cave. I am convinced that tough love is the stance I must take, but tough love is just that, tough. God, however, requires us to do so and if we don’t, someone just might lose their life.
Collins World English Dictionary defines tough love as “the practice of taking a stern attitude towards a relative or friend suffering from an addiction, etc., to help the addict overcome the problem.” Tough love requires you to tell somebody something you’d rather not because you don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, don’t want to hurt the person, and don’t want the person mad at you, all feelings I had when recently having to give tough love. According to my loved one, my past sexual immorality, a misinterpretation, helping my old friend and a one-time purchase don’t give me the authority to exercise tough love. In fact, the person doesn’t see my stance as tough love but as my attempt to be God and leave the person homeless. These are the type of attacks that come with tough love; I know that’s why so few people, at least many that I know, give tough love. Instead, we simply pray that the person will one day make a turnaround when we know God is calling us to be more active, to take a hard stand for righteousness. The Lord wants the person to surrender their will to Him, and we have been called as agents to facilitate that:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:13-17)
Many times as Christians, whenever we give tough love to someone because we want them to look to the Lord—not their intellect, intuition, net worth, network or any other works—to get from under the choke of addiction, we are sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and are likely to be persecuted. The likelihood that we will be persecuted for showing tough love shouldn’t deter us from loving this way. If those who love them don’t tell them, who will? We can’t wait for someone else. We must fulfill our call to love unconditionally, which means loving a person the way they need to be loved and not just the way they desire to be loved. And like we are admonished to stay firm in our faith by obeying God, we have to remain firm on our tough love stance in obedience to God even when it hurts (Hebrews 10:35-38).
We can’t just think about our own souls, but we must also think about the souls of those who may be blinded by reckless behavior that is wrecking their lives and, no doubt, the lives of others, physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. We can’t follow the way of Eli the priest who failed to correct his spiritually and sexually corrupt priest-sons who defiled God’s temple and they all died as a result (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25, 27-36, 4:11-18). Tough love is a weapon of war and not for the faint of heart, but we can wield this weapon to fight for our loved ones’ souls, knowing that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).
“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39).
Take a Risk Challenge: Consider who you might have to give tough love to and seek God for the approach and the strength to operate outside of your comfort zone. We must lose our lives in hopes of saving another. We must speak the truth to plant or water a seed that may one day grow. We must be okay with others hating us so they can eventually love Jesus. Tough love is truly a radical act of love.