Monday, October 8, 2012

When Loving Gets Tough

Scripture Passage: Joshua 7:1-22

Key Verse: "Joshua said, 'Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today'" (Josh. 7:25, NIV).

Leading isn't always easy, is it? Sure, everything's just fine as long as your friends aren't getting into anything really bad. But what about when one of them crosses that invisible line (or invites you to cross it), and you know—really know—that you have to confront the sin out of love for the sinner?

One of love's greatest paradoxes is this: In its highest form, love cares so much for its recipient that it is willing to risk conflict rather than let that person be any less than the best he or she can be.

Just ask Joshua. Leading the Jews into the Promised Land, especially after having to live up to the example given by Moses (the leader of leaders as far as Jewish history is concerned), must have felt to him like being asked to step in for Billy Graham might feel to you. To top it all off, his army had just been creamed in battle by the tiny city of Ai, and that coming just after defeating the powerful city of Jericho.

As any sensible man would, Joshua fell on his face before God, desperate to know what had gone wrong and why God had brought them so far only to let them be humiliated (v. 7). God's answer was simple: Your hearts aren't right; there is sin in the camp. God led Joshua to find Achan, whose greed had brought the entire nation to a standstill. Then Joshua faced a crucial management decision: How could he demonstrate to his people how seriously God hates sin (by giving the order to have Achan stoned) when he knew the lesson would be a painful one (especially for Achan)? But he knew that when loyalty to God and human love for His people seem to contradict, loyalty to God must be our goal.

Fortunately, our laws aren't as strict as the Old Testament laws. Even so, we must still be strong and firm in confronting the wrongdoing and wrong attitudes of our friends (especially our Christian friends). But always let our strength and firmness be out of love for the other person's improvement, not out of retaliation or anger. In the short term, tough love can hurt both the lover and the loved, but in the long term, it is necessary if our relationships are to be the kind God wants us to have.

© 1997 Sean Taylor

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