Summary: Christians need to learn the value of tough love in both giving and receiving it.
Who said the following harsh words? “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”
“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!”
“You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”
“You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean.”
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”
You probably recognize these words of Jesus, the gentle Shepherd, the tenderhearted, meek and lowly Savior (Matthew 23:13-33 NIV). How could he talk so tough to people he claimed to love? Why did he say these hard words?
Jesus said these things because they were true. His words were upsetting, difficult to receive, tough to swallow—but true. Quite often the truth must simply be told straight out, with no room for confusion or misinterpretation, to avoid the greater damage of living by lies. Jesus had an overwhelming concern for the people he was addressing. He loved them, and he wanted them to come to grips with the truth before they shipwrecked their lives and jeopardized eternity. Jesus was demonstrating tough love—a kind of love that is usually painful but very potent.
Sometimes we have to do the same with friends, family, brothers and sisters in Christ. It is hard to do and even harder to be on the receiving end, but it is worth it in the long run in order to save a relationship, or even a life. Love is the main theme of Jesus’ ministry, it’s really the main theme of the Bible, and it definitely needs to be the main theme in our Christian walks. There are many ways to show love and if we are going to grow in our relationship with God or grow as a church then we need to find the balance of it in our lives. But we also need to figure out how to treat each other in the process as well. This church has been through its ups and downs. We have seen people come and people go. We have witnessed great things and have noticed some negative things. There have been great rises in our attendance, as well as great falls. Some blame it on one thing, while others blame it on another. Let’s not play that game any longer. Let’s learn from it. This morning I would like to appeal to you this theme of love. Come explore with me on how we should love one another. Let us look to God and His word and learn together.
There are really two kinds of people out there: Tender People and Tough People.
So we have to understand tender love verses tough love. How many out there are tender hearted raise your hands. How many are tough hearted? It doesn’t matter which you are, we all need love, and we need both kinds.
Tender love is badly needed to all people in this hardhearted world. We need compassion, sensitivity, affirmation and encouragement. To you tenderhearted people, stand up: God would say, “I understand your tender spirit—I made you that way. But if you're going to learn how to really love, you're going to have to learn about tough love. How to receive it and how to give it.” We all need tough love.
Everywhere I look I see people who need to experience tough love—precious people who really matter to God but who are running around and around in circles, dizzied by deception. I see married couples on the edge of serious trouble, young people pushing their luck to the limits, all kinds of people wandering aimlessly in the wastelands of destructive pleasure seeking. Too many of us who see these people destroying themselves simply chew our nails and wring our hands, saying nothing because we do not understand tough love.
Listen, I understand. I am also a tenderhearted person. I hate being tough, but I have to be if I’m going to raise kids, be married, and lead a church. Sometimes I allow my tenderhearted side come out more so then my tough hearted side and then I get hurt. I’ve kinda learned my lesson, but not always. It’s hard to show tough love. But somebody has to get close to these people and tell them they're on a merry-go-round going nowhere. Somebody has to shake them and say, “God has a better way for you. Get off the merry-go-round and look to him for direction.” Somebody has to say, “I love you too much to watch you shipwreck your life, your marriage, your family, your job, your soul. So sit down and listen to me, because I'm going to say some hard things to you. I don't like doing this, but I must because these things are true and because I love you too much to stay silent when I see you hurting yourself.”