What love isn't....

I just want to make it clear that there has never been a definition of love that includes "makes a point of changing other peoples' behavior". That's part of the definition of fear.



  1. This caught my attention because it sort of resonates with some of the things I’ve been thinking, but kind of opposite: I’ve been thinking about how the Emergent Church movement as a whole is unwilling to call a sin a sin, in the name of “loving people,” and not making people feel uncomfortable at church.

    So, I will have to respectfully disagree with your thoughts here. (Though, I agree in the sense that--I see far too many young brides marry someone they say they “love” but really, I think they just “love” the idea of marriage--and then they go on to try to change every detail about their new groom...And that is not love.) The reason I disagree is this: I think that John the Baptist was loving people when he walked around telling them to repent (change their behavior). I think Jesus loved them, too, when he told people to repent--and the 12 disciples loved people, too, when they told people to repent. I think Jesus loved the 12 disciples when he told them to completely drop everything and follow him (change what they were doing). John the Baptist called the crowd “a brood of vipers” because they were trying to get into heaven without changing their behavior. Jesus performed miracles in many cities, and then began denouncing those cities because they had not changed their behavior & refused to repent...I believe that Jesus loved those cities. I believe John the Baptist loved the crowds he was talking to. There are many, many more verses in the Bible about changing our behavior--written to specific churches by specific people--I think they were written in love. And it's all the word of God, from Him, who loves us more than anything else He created....

    And maybe I misunderstand what you’re saying. There are behaviors that make up a person that are not sin--(putting the toothpaste cap back on or not, hanging the toilet paper roll one way or another)--and spending our days trying to change *those* kinds of behaviors would not be love for that person, it would really be self-love (expecting people to do things our way).

    I don’t think we truly have the power to change another person’s behavior, but we do have the ability to speak into their life (lovingly) when there is sin going on. I think to ignore the sin would be hatred, honestly--like the Bible says, if I fail to discipline my children for their sin, I hate them....So if we see somebody ensnared in a trap of sin and we just stand by and watch, and we don’t try to help them change their behaviors, in my opinion, this is hatred.

    And I was just thinking about this--in this blog post--you’re responding to something--something you’ve read, someone you’ve talked to, someone you’ve overheard--and really, you’re wishing those people (whoever they are) would change their behavior of trying to change people’s behavior, right? So do you love whomever you’re responding to? Just food for thought. ;) (I say this all in friendly debate with all respect, of course! ;)

  2. Here's why I disagree with you. Sometimes we may have an obligation to notify someone of their behavior, yes - but we do not, and never have, had the obligation to *change* the person's behavior. That to me is a huge distinction. Many of the characteristics of love in fact point to *not* trying to change a person's behavior, but instead simply walking along a path with a person and helping them discover for themselves what changes they need to make (without endeavoring to slip our own changes in from time to time).

    I think a lot of times, our efforts to change other peoples' behavior, if we really look honestly at them, are exactly what you said - wishing for the person to do it our way - that is to deal with an issue in our time frame, in a way that makes us comfortable that something is happening, and maybe even in a way in which we can say, "look, I helped with that".

    I'm not trying to change anyone's behavior with this blog post (I'm long past thinking that would ever work, anyway), I'm simply expressing frustration at behavior I find frustrating.

  3. I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, and i probably should have just posted this as blog on my own. But for now i'll just post it as a comment. And since this comment is apparently too big, I'll post it in two parts. :)

    It is ONLY the Holy Spirit's job to change people. It's our job to love them. Love God, Love your neighbor as your self. Which in no way shape or form is wishy washy or easy.

    I do not understand how we have come to think that to love someone is an easy foofoo thing to do. Sure, to ignore someone and their needs and hurts and put on a fake smile and say everything is allright,everyone is allright, that's simple.

    But to love someone well, wherever they are at, whatever they are going through, without judgment is hard. It requires listening to the Holy Spirit and doing your best to do what He says to do. Even if you don't understand it. Even if it means, gasp!, not giving your 2 cents on how they are doing wrong or behaving sinfully. If the spirit says speak, then do it. But if He doesn't then don't. We should never be quick to judge a situation and speak first, love later. Ever.

    God knows the timing and the words people need to hear. He is the one working on their hearts, not us. We should never be so arrogant to think we actually have anything to do with any change that may occur in their hearts. God is the infinite one, we the finite, small, and tiny. To think that we have God all figured out and know exactly how He would have us handle every situation and the speed at which it should be handled is dangerous.

    It's much easier to put a nice set of rules on how to love people and then apply that to every situation. It's much easier to focus on peoples behavior and to determine their spirit's state of welfare based on said behavior. We are ALL sinful. EVERY SINGLE PERSON. NO one is above the need for grace or patience or love. Grace is what keeps sin from separating us from God. God is well aware of our every sin and shortcomings. And still He loves us. Do we love others if they sin? Do we love them even if they never change? Do we love them even if it takes a lifetime? Do we love them even if their life makes us uncomfortable? Do we love them even if we have to be silent for them to feel loved? Do we love them even if that means their outward behavior never changes. Do we love them even if we never get to see the effect our love had on them? Do we love them even if God only uses it to help their inner most hurts heal and they never become strong enough or at a place to have the inner healing become outward behavior changes?

    Do you think that it's possible that God may know that someone needs love more then they need correction at the point in their life you encounter them. Do you think that maybe someone only needs the correction when God has positioned them at a place to be able to hear and accept it? Do you think that it's possible God knows best. Do you think it's possible that God might actually ask you to be silent in someone's life and care for them where they are at, without judgment so they can begin to feel safe, loved, cared for, so that God's voice can begun to be heard in their soul? Or do you know exactly how God would have you act in every situation?

  4. Part 2
    If Love is our one tool in life, the one way people will know God, know we are of God, know God cares for them as well, then i can't see a better way to make it as useless as possible then to make it unrecognizable. Turn Love into everything it's not, then it's useless. Put a costume of Love on fear, but it's still fear underneath.

    What if the drug addict is always a drug addict but our love helps heal his soul and enables him to hear God's voice when he couldn't before? What if the abusive mother or husband is always abusive and raging but our love and patience helps them become a tiny bit more awake to God's voice and they become His even if they never change much on the outside? What if our lesbian coworker never leaves her partner, but because you did not judge, and loved her exactly unconditionally, makes it possible for her to believe that maybe God loves her no matter what, and she hears Him and responds.

    Just because we do not see the effects Love has does not mean they aren't there. God knows the soul, not us. We never know the soul. We barely know our own souls.

  5. Hi Dave & Trina, wow, lots of thoughts! I think on many levels we agree...and in some ways we don’t. ;)
    Dave, you said that we may have an obligation to notify someone of their behavior, but we’ve never had an obligation to *change* a person’s behavior, and I completely agree--and I think that’s what I was saying. I don’t think we ever have or ever will have the ability to truly change another person’s behavior. We can make suggestions. We can even rebuke them--but it’s up to them (and the Holy Spirit working in their lives) to make that change happen.
    When you talk about “many characteristics of love,” I wonder where you are finding these? In Scripture?
    You mention frustration, and wanting to blog about something you’re frustrated about--so I question you (again, food for thought)--is that love? I see a disconnect here...I see you saying that you want to love people, and not change people’s behavior, that’s good. And Trina mentions lots of kinds of lifestyles that would be generally unacceptable within the Christian community, and loving/walking along side people while they live out those lifestyles...Being accepting of those people even while they live in that sin (because we all sin)....But....would you walk along side/be so accepting of people who try to change other people’s behaviors? Or--is it ok to have a certain type of people that you’re “frustrated” about (frustration is another word for anger), and just love on the people that the church doesn’t usually reach out to?
    Trina, I agree that it’s only the Holy Spirit’s job, and that we are called to love people. I also agree that loving isn’t wishy washy, or foo foo, that it is for sure a *hard* thing to do. I also agree that we need to speak when God calls us to speak, and stay quiet when He calls us to stay silent. But I’m saying, sometimes, in love, God calls us to speak. Sometimes He even calls us to rebuke, in love. Sometimes He calls us to teach someone....Sometimes He calls us to speak into their life and help them find another way to go. This isn’t for our own benefit (though we are blessed by it), it’s all for His glory. Likewise, sometimes He calls us to be silent. It isn’t an always-one-way type of thing. And I think we can be blessed in that silence, too, as long as we’re being silent out of obedience.
    I don’t think we have to have God completely figured out or know a situation omnisciently in order to act. I think God calls us to act with faith in Him that He made us His hands and feet. Yes, He knows his beings--whom He loves--whom He created in His image--more than we do. But He gave us ears to listen, and Scripture to point us in the direction He wants us to go--and sometimes that direction is speaking...
    I wonder how John the Baptist would have been treated by this generation? Or Paul? Or James? They taught--they spoke--they said some pretty harsh things to people--they called it like they saw it....Do you think that was love?
    I am for sure a sinner, and we all are, every single one of us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be used by God in each other’s lives, even in ways where we have to sharpen each other’s iron or call each other to the carpet when we see someone messed up. I’m not saying we live a life that is only full of pointing out other people’s mistakes (what a miserable life indeed!). But I’m saying I believe it *is* part of the journey--and part of loving people like Christ loved them.
    Jesus denounced cities because they wouldn’t repent and change their ways. We’re all sinners, but I believe there’s a different kind of attitude in someone who is walking in the light and not walking in the light. Karry and I were talking about this tonight--we both sin--but we’re very aware of our sin on a daily basis (we’re not perfect, of course, so we probably don’t see it *all* :). We’re generally quick to apologize (unless it’s the times when we’re sinning and don’t want to apologize ;)...and while we mess up again, we don’t want to. I’m a sinner saved by grace and I live in thankfulness for that....

    Part 2 is coming... ;)