Tough Love

Sometimes in our lives we exhibit tough love to a friend or family member. Tough love is the moment you give another adult an ultimatum as a result of their bad actions. Tough love is a two-way street though. Your offer for help may be accepted or it may be rejected. If the person continues down the wrong road, you must rely on the power of prayer and seek understanding from God. Now that is truly tough love!

My friend is at this crossroad in her life. Her son was recently picked up for drug possession. Will her son accept her invitation for help or will he continue to walk down his destructive path? Unfortunately, I have no great words of wisdom for her. The only words I have to offer are those written about Jesus when He exhibited tough love.

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” John 2:13-16

Even though Jesus was angry about the Temple being used as a market place, He took time to braid a whip. In those moments, I wonder what went through His mind? Possibly He paused to see if the merchants would flee on their own or maybe He needed time to pray before He cleared the temple. Regardless, it is obvious Jesus is about to make a profound statement and take a righteous stand against the evil practices in the Temple. When Jesus braided the rope, He sent a clear message for us to control our tempers and develop patience before we react.

In those moments when we exhibit tough love, we should always first braid a rope. Anger is typically our first emotion and angry words often cause more damage than good. Even though Jesus cleared the temple, He did so with righteous indignation. Tough love should be the same. In the case of drug addiction, we need to stand firm in a loving manner. We cannot display a gray and fuzzy line on what is permissible and what is not. Their lives are at stake, and we are the ones who stand in the gap between addiction and a godly path. We want what is best for our loved ones. In their mental state, they want the drugs which mask their failures, their pain and their inadequacies in life.

Even in Jesus’ case, tough love did not work the first time. In the book of John, Jesus cleared the Temple at the beginning of His ministry. Almost three years later, Jesus cleared the temple once again as His ministry comes to an end. Jesus took one last stand, one last example of tough love for the abuse of the Temple. But ultimately, He won because His death, burial, and resurrection offered grace to all of those who He chased from the temple.

Many will continue down the path of addiction and destruction, rather than accepting your love and trusting God. Regardless of the outcome, trust is the key word for redemption. Trust that your tough love is necessary. Trust in the principle of braiding your whip. Trust in the prayers on their behalf. Trust in God’s strength in the moment. Trust in God’s timing that a story of redemption and victory will one day prevail.

Is there a situation in your life where tough love needs to be enforced, or has your life changed as a result of tough love? Please give God the glory by sharing your story in the comments.

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