August 14, 2016: Tough Love – When it’s tough to love

Posted on : Aug 11th, 2016 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

“Tough Love” has become a pretty common expression in our contemporary vocabulary. It usually means “promotion of a person’s welfare, especially that of an addict, child, or criminal, by enforcing certain constraints on them, or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions.” Though common today, that phrase was probably coined in 1968 by Bill Milliken when he wrote the book “Tough Love.”

Another phrasing of those words was used by Jesus some 2000 years ago. He spoke about “when it is tough to love.” That meaning is as relevant today as it was in Jesus’ time.

Right now, it seems like it is really hard to love some people. I think of the division and vitriol we are currently experiencing in our country between the supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Opinion polls show that Americans are more deeply divided in their dislike for one or the other than at any time in history. Not only are we divided about policies and beliefs, we are deeply divided by hate for one or the other person.

Something is changing in our morality when one candidate, jokingly or not, suggests someone ought to assassinate a candidate, as happened this past week. Something is also changing in our morality when Olympians get ripped to shreds for saying the most innocuous things or not standing tall with their hand over their heart during the medal ceremonies.

Jesus’ words from 2000 years ago ought to make all of us stop and think about those we hate. This week we focus on yet another question Jesus asks us. It’s a question about the nature of love: “If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have?” Another translation is “what good is it to you?” Matthew 5:46.

The Message, a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible, tells the story with these words:

Matthew 5:43-47   The Message

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. God gives God’s best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

One of the American preachers that I admire most said this:

Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend.  -MLK

Let’s not kid ourselves. What Jesus is asking us to do is very difficult: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

I think these words from the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the paraphrasing of this teaching of Jesus from The Message offers great insight as to how and why this is important: “Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend.” “Let them (those you hate) bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.”

More on Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Matthew 5: 43-46

(Jesus said:) You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of our God; for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?Be perfect, therefore, as our God is perfect.

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