It Hurts to Love You
APRIL 6, 2017
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Sometimes it hurts to love you, you know? No, I realize that you don’t know. You’ve said as much; Why can’t you just be quiet? Why can’t we go back to the way it was? The things you say reveal that you don’t get it. Of course you want to go back. Back to when I carried our conflict in silence because you refused to look at it. Back to when I had to forgive, but you never had to acknowledge those things that needed forgiveness. Back to the time when it was up to me to sweep everything under the rug so you could maintain your façade of perfection to the world.
Back to when I was hurting so you wouldn’t have to…
Ah yes, I did it to other people too. It’s all we knew “discipleship” to be. But I won’t go back there with you. That isn’t love, it’s codependency—and it was crushing me.
The “love” chapter in 1 Corinthians wasn’t written so Christians could try really hard to fake it, but so we could discern real love from exploitation—both in ourselves and others. It seems to me that based on this passage, love is either there or it isn’t, and this is how we can tell.
I have heard hundreds of sermons about how “love is an action.” They always end with a list of duties I have to try really hard to perform. They say; Do these things and the feelings will follow. Apparently, love has to be mustered with a flurry of activity. Do you see that in the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13? I don’t. I see that if love is there, it will be obvious. If love is not there it is because of envy or arrogance or resentment or selfishness. If love is not there, it shows up in rudeness, insisting on its own way, irritability, and a lack of endurance in relationship.
Because love is either there or it isn’t, it cannot be taught. Only the external actions that simulate love can be taught. If these actions are done in order to get something from others—that is exploitation not love. Exploitation is epidemic in evangelicalism.
We Christians have neglected organic relationships in favor of marketing, forced transparency and discipleship programs that produce clones. We have encouraged co-dependency, and demonized Psychology. Therefore the oppressed are never able to heal, and oppressors have access to an endless supply of victims. Sadly, many people have learned to retreat from Christians, and are instead drawn to people outside of evangelicalism where they can just “be” in community. No editing. No fix-it programs. No bogus accountability groups. No hamster wheel of performance.
Love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5b—NIV 1984). How I have wrestled with that passage. I worked so hard to forgive and forget all the exploitation I have experienced at the hands of my brothers and sisters in Christ. But with each new offense the file cabinet opens and I remember in great detail each and every one.
I have repented of this unforgiveness that I just cannot shake so many times. Then I feel guilty because I should be strong enough by now shouldn’t I? A physical wound doesn’t heal when it continues to be re-injured. Turns out, neither does an emotional wound. How many times does a puppy run back, eager for relationship, only to be kicked again? Eventually the puppy hides under the bed when called—hoping not to be found.
The Lord and I have had many conversations about this. Sometimes I feel His Spirit restraining me. Just give them to me. I will carry this for you. Don’t do anything right now. Other times, I explode with frustration. Either way, most evangelicals don’t want to hear that collectively we have a reputation for being unloving. Ironic isn’t it? We treat people like commodities. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but people know when they aren’t loved. Self-awareness is a powerful thing.
Christians, do you understand that it would be easier to love you, and you would be free if you would just own your offenses, and admit it when you have been using people instead of loving them? As it stands, it is easier to love you from a distance because it hurts too much to love you up close.
“But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 3:9)
I understand how strong the draw back to external law keeping is rather than pure love. It feels safe. It feels like you have everything (and everybody) under control, but it is bondage in disguise. After all it is a dangerous business to flirt with the ministry of death (2 Cor 3). If you want your ladder climbing, and your social activities and your who’s who of Christendom, I will leave you to it then. I have already been there and it is exhausting. Ironically, that brand of evangelicalism excludes Jesus and genuine love in favor of super-Christians and controlling men.
I would be so eager to call out the elephant in the room and talk these things through. Truth is, I have done that many times with so so many of you. You demand to be heard, but refuse to listen. Not everything is fixed with much talking I suppose. So I will wait for the Law to do its work on you since you long to run after it. I can’t rescue you from that life. If I step in, the Law will crush me instead of you. People cannot absorb sins for other people like Jesus will. He will take all of that upon Himself. If you would just bring your mess into the light and stop faking it, you wouldn’t have to carry it anymore either (John 3:19-21).