Sunday, July 4, 2021

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - A Case for Tough Love

Although many do not like to be lectured or called out for their wrongdoing, it has to be done if you really love those individuals. I will be the first to say that I don’t like to be corrected or called out for something I have done. It is embarrassing and painful when called out, but, if done correctly, it is a good thing especially when the person understands that what was done was out of love rather than vindictiveness.

When you are the recipient of this sort of “tough love”, you really don’t want to hear the words of the individual. You believe it is a personal attack. You become defensive and start trying to defend your actions. You try to deny the accusations. You, then, become angry with the individual and tell him or her to leave you alone. All of these responses are natural, but, in time, you have a choice.

You can continue to deny or ignore what was said or you can take it to heart. By listening to the words and understanding that the person who brought these things to your attention did it out of love and a desire to help, you can take the path that leads to repentance and helps you become a better individual.

No one likes to be criticized for something he or she does especially when it is sinful. If we truly believe in the example of Jesus, we are to help one another in their daily walk with the Lord. Sometimes, we find ourselves making a detour and following another path that leads to disobedience. When we are weak, we play right into the hands of Satan. At those moments, temptation is very strong and seductive. We succumb and begin to stray from the truth and the light.

For example, Paul writes to the church in Corinth and calls them out for the sin in the church. It is a very difficult letter for Paul to write but he is called to bring these items to their attention and tell them that what is going on in the church is not acceptable to the Lord.

In chapter four of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. So I urge you to imitate me.

Paul isn’t writing them to bring shame to them. His motives are pure and done out of love. As Paul points out, he has become their father in Christ Jesus. As a father, he disciplines out of love. His desire is for them to grow spiritually and become teachers to others. He urges them to remember his teachings and to imitate him in their daily walk with the Lord.

Later, Paul, in chapter five, writes, “I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.

It is so very easy for all of us to turn a blind eye to the sins that occur in our churches and continue to believe that a few little sins are fine and will not hurt the spiritual growth of the community. We believe that we have to “go along to get along”. So, we keep silent. Considering social media and how things we post live forever, we may not say anything because someone else may bring up a sin from our past. But, if we are true Christians who love one another, we should never fail in our responsibilities of helping one another especially in times of temptation. If someone has sinned, we are there to help that person back onto the straight and narrow.

Being called out for something we have done is a bitter pill to swallow, but, like medications, it is something that has to occur when taking those first steps back to the Father and a life of righteousness. We can choose to begin restoration or we can just persist in our sin and continue to drift farther and farther away from the Father. 

In the case of the Corinthians, they took Paul’s words to heart and returned to the path of righteousness. I am sure that it took a while for people to give up their sinful ways. Remember, we deny, become defensive and become angry. It is part of being human, but, in time, we wake up and make the decision to stop following temptation.

In chapter seven of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death. Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish wrong. You showed that you have done everything necessary to make things right.

Paul was, at first, sorry for writing a harsh letter, but he knew that it had to be done. He didn’t do it to call people out. His motive was very sincere and his desire for them to repent came out of his love for them. Paul points out the sorrow that they felt was good and that sort of sorrow leads to repentance and salvation. In the end, the church did everything to make things right.

There are a couple of lessons that we need to learn from this. First, we must be honest, not only with each other, but also with ourselves. It is so very difficult to see that what we are doing is sinful. Temptation can lead us to spiritual blindness. We may not see things correctly or have justified things in our own minds. It takes the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus to have a sincere and honest talk with us and help us to see that what we are doing is being disobedient to God. If we have a talk with someone, it must be done out of love and there should not be a hint of malice towards the other.

The second lesson is that if we are the recipients of these words, we must receive them with love and understanding. The person bringing our sinful actions to our attention is already in a difficult position. It is very painful for them to talk with you. Be gracious in your actions and receptive to their words. Remember that they love you and are trying to help you.

In closing his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes, “Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.

Part of growing spiritually is being able to accept the counseling of others and learning that we can improve as Christians. As long as the counseling is done in Christian love and done respectfully and received with love and an open heart, we are able to continue our walk with the Lord and stand firm in His grace. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. 

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