Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Loving Someone Enough to Confront Them | Pastor Jake

Is “Love” masked exploitation? 

Upon reading verses such as “Love is patient, love is kind…it always protects, trusts, hopes, preservers. Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:4 & 7), some have concluded that the contents of this chapter are not so much a recipe for a good marriage or healthy relationship, but for exploitation. Friedrich Nietzsche more than once made statements like this:
"I regard Christianity as the most fatal and seductive lie that has ever yet existed--as the greatest and most impious lie…”
Nietzsche’s rationale for this scathing declaration was rooted in what I perceive in the following areas. The Christian ethic, namely, the Christian notion of love is...
  • foreign to nature
  • an assault on individual expression
  • an assault on personal fulfillment
  • an endorsement and reinforcement of the slave ethic.
The believer readily admits that agape love is foreign to nature; nature here being clearly defined as creation in the throes of a curse - a curse that moves humans imprinted in the image of God to bite, kick, scratch, harm, maim, and murder like their animal subordinates who have no divine imprintation. Nietzsche has got us on this one.

The Christian readily admits that agape love is an assault on individual expression; it tells them to stop biting, kicking, scratching, harming, maiming, and murdering when you want to give vent to your “nature.” Nietzsche has got us on this one too.

Now, we’re a little bit more cautious to conceding to Nietzsche the third accusation: agape is an assault on personal fulfillment. Certainly we would admit that turning the other cheek doesn’t pay immediate dividends of pleasure. However, Nietzsche would be the first to concede that within his own experience, there are certain pleasures that may be immediately experienced and enjoyed by someone, yet that same pleasure may be an obstacle to a greater pleasure that yields greater satisfaction that is gradual, not immediate. I derive immediate pleasure in watching TV. However, to turn off the TV and discipline myself to practice an instrument or read a book sets the stage for great satisfaction - a satisfaction that may be delayed. In the same way, agape is an assault on the pleasure of personal fulfillment. But agape says that pleasure of self-absorption is inferior to the pleasure experienced in communal engagement - a pleasure that pays dividends gradually.

Lastly, the believer refuses to accept the last charge: the Christian ethic of love is pure exploitation that those in power wield to paralyze their subjects. True love, Paul insists, is zealous about fairness and truth.

Love Delights In and Upholds Justice and Truth

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”- 1 Corinthians 13:6-7

Paul declares to the Corinthian church that Love is Zealous for:
  • Right Living (Justice) – the opposite of evil
  • Right Thinking (Truth) – the opposite of falsehood.
Which is to say, whatever “patience, kindness, trusting, believing, hoping, enduring”mean, it can’t be taken to exclude notions of justice and truth. I would even suggest that it is quite likely that the Corinthians believed that Love somehow excluded the emphasis on right living and right thinking. Paul seems to be referring to something that this church is doing which they suppose to be loving, pure, holy, right, good, but upon apostolic examination, they are delighting in evil and rejecting the truth.

Corinthian Love | Non-Controntational 

In some chapters earlier, Paul sharply rebukes the church for tolerating the sexual immorality of a particular member of their church. Paul says that they had become arrogant and boastful about this matter. At first this seems odd that a church would boast in the clear violation of Scripture in their midst. But upon further examination, it is easy to see how the church settled for pseudo-love believed to be biblical. A love that...
  • Celebrates individual expression, no matter what it is
  • Embraces and does not challenge wrong living
  • Embraces and does not challenge wrong thinking
  • Is non-judgmental
  • Is non-confrontational
  • Is intolerant of intolerance
Is this Corinth or California? Both I suppose.

True Love Confronts

For Paul...
  • Love doesn’t celebrate individual expression no matter what
  • Love challenges wrong living
  • Love challenges wrong thinking
  • Love is compelled to make judgments about moral issues
  • Love is compelled to confront
Loving People to Life

We are called to pay an intolerable compliment of confrontation to one another- to love each other so much that we will confront one another when necessary.

Proverbs 27:5 - 6 Open rebuke is better than secret love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

Psalm 141:5 Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head; Do not let my head refuse it, For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.

How do we stab our brother in the front (rather than the back)? To ensure that we’re not loving people to death by an unrestrained regard for truth and justice, we must answer these questions:

Do I receive the intolerable complement when made by others. “I can give it, but not receive it?”
Do I put much prayer and thought before confrontation?
Do I know the person well enough?
Do I have enough information?
I’m I tethering truth with love and humility?
I’m I being Punitive or Restorative?
I’m I willing to go through the complete process of restoration?
Loving People to Life by Death

To love people to life, we are called to die. We are called to lay down our lives in paying this intolerable compliment of confrontation. Sure, we’re not called to be a doormat, but sometimes we’re called to be a stepping stone for others. There’s nothing more difficult, nor more loving then bearing with someone’s dysfunction, sin, and character flaws as they make movements of progress, and relapse, and movements of progress, and relapses. But that’s precisely 1 Corinthian 13 love.

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