Tough Love Is Tough
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
As I researched the phrase tough love – I found that this phrase became popular in the late 60’s. Tough Love was a book written by Bill Milliken, published in 1968. Tough love is the idea of discipline and even the restriction of freedoms in order to train and teach – to get someone – usually a child – to conform to an acceptable pattern of behavior. It is not easy because as parents we usually want to shower our children with everything we can – but – at times – that is counterproductive to the results we are after in them.
An example might be not bailing out a child who has done something wrong but allowing them to face the consequences of their actions – thus learning that there are indeed consequences when we behave in certain ways. Do you remember the episode of Andy Griffith where Obie broke a window and Andy told him he would have to pay for it? That was the episode where the rich young man (Bill Bixby I think) came speeding through town and wrecked a farm truck. His rich father sent a lawyer to bail him out and bought off the farmer with a new truck. In the end the rich young man learned a lesson by spending some time with Andy and stayed to pay the debt owed.
Let’s look at today’s passage in partial context. Mark 10:17-27 – 17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Jesus had a rich young man come to Him and asked what he needed to do to be saved. First Jesus said for the man to obey the commandments to which the young man boastfully responded – Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth. Then Jesus called him to a deeper level of holiness – Jesus knew his heart – and he told the young man – “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The young man went away sorrowfully because he had much and he treasured his things more than following after Christ.
What are our treasures? What keeps us from a deeper level of holiness? Do we feel like we are holy enough? Do we feel entitled to God’s grace and heaven because we have a form of holiness – a measure of it – maybe even better than most? Do we believe our feelings – our biology – our desires – are too much to give up to follow Jesus? Are your toes sore right now – I know mine are for sure. What do we treasure? Jesus said – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:21
Tough love – spiritually – calls us to holiness. In today’s passage it is clear to me that God wants our all – not just a partial faithfulness. God is after our hearts. The greatest commandment is to love God with all we have and all we are – Mark 12:30 – And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Holding people accountable – pointing out sin in our lives and the lives of others – is not hating. The passage says that Jesus loved the rich young man – And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Pointing out sin in our lives and in the lives of fellow sisters and brothers is not hating on them but actually showing tough love.
I do not feel hated when a brother or sister points out my gluttonous appetite. I feel convicted and continue to struggle with my sin (one of several unfortunately). I confess my sin regularly and strive to rebuke it in my life. I do not ask for people to accept my sin. I have tried to rationalize my sin away (big body type – medication – stress) – but that doesn’t work folks.
I believe if Christians practiced tough love with each other – the body of Christ – the witness of the church would be stronger. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16
The church should not be trying to get sin approved as acceptable in any area of our lives but rather it should be helping to hold us accountable to sin and drawing us toward holiness. It is tough love – but it is the only form of love that is really God like. It doesn’t matter what we think is normal or natural for us. What matters is God’s truth expressed through His Holy Word.
Just something for us to think about today as we go on our way.
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