Does our perception of love affect our relationships? I believe it does.
It affects our relationship with God, our marriages, and how we parent.
It also affects how we deal with sin – in our own lives, in those of our children, and in the church.
Today I’m going to try and put into words the thoughts that have shaped my thinking about love and then see how they affect marriage and parenting.
Let’s jump in.
God is love. The Bible says so. (1 John4:8) And nothing can separate us from this love (Romans 8:38,39).
We may know this intellectually but often this where it stops. It reaches our heads but not our hearts. We know John 3:16 so well yet we don’t feel God’s deep affection for us personally.
Because we believe that we are not supposed to base our religious experience on feelings. This is true – our Christian experience should not be based on feelings, but that does not mean it should be devoid of feelings.
We should feel God’s love for us. We should feel love for God.
Another reason we struggle to feel God’s affection for us is because we did not experience or feel true love from our parents or others who were meant to love us.
We can’t accept that God loves us unconditionally. We believe our standing with God is based on our performance and not on the price He paid for us.
And this is so wrong.
True love proved itself at Calvary by paying the ultimate price. We know this, don’t we? But have we internalized it? Personalized it? Meditated on it?
“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6,7 (KJV)
1 Corinthians 13 gives us another word picture of true love. Love sacrifices. It gives. It waits. But it also does not rejoice in iniquity.
The main thrust of these verses is God’s love, mercy, patience, and forgiveness. These are the qualities that appear first before pointing out that God also gives consequences for sin.
That’s because God is love. And let’s not lose that focus.
But because God has such extravagant, passionate, sacrificial love, He cannot tolerate anything that destroys love – hence His punishment of disobedience and willful sin.
Sometimes we downplay this aspect of God’s love because, well, it just doesn’t feel nice. We equate justice with ‘unlove’.
But God’s love gives consequences – with an aching heart. Not for revenge or because of anger or impatience, but for our good (Hebrews 12:5-11), and to save us from self-destruction.
Leviticus 26 provides a list of rewards and consequences God promised to bring upon His people if they either obeyed or disobeyed Him.
Acts 5:1-11 tells the story of Ananias and Sapphira who were punished with death for lying to the Holy Spirit.
God sent a storm and a fish to bring Jonah to his senses when He disobeyed God’s instruction.
Why did God do this? Is He selfish and arbitrary?
No. It’s because He is love.
He gives consequences to protect love. Because He can’t bear things that destroy love and relationship.
His deep, extravagant, powerful love demands faithfulness, honesty, and obedience. Because these are the things that make relationship.
True love has two sides, perfectly balanced.
Most of us fall into the ditch on either side – indulgence (false love) or harshness (false justice).
But there’s a perfect sweet spot in the middle where justice and mercy meet (Psalm 85:10). And that’s the place we need to reach.
How does our view of love affect our relationships?
In marriage: a spouse will tolerate pornography, neglect, gambling, and adultery because they believe this is what love does. They will take back an unfaithful spouse again and again and again even though they never change, mistaking forgiveness for tolerance of evil.
In parenting: a parent will not give consequences and restrain their children. They overlook resistance to their authority and excuse wilfulness, thinking the child will outgrow it someday. Besides, they’re only young once so let them have their way. The child rules the family and the parent spends a lot of time warning and reminding their kids and no time training.
In marriage: a spouse will not forgive when the other hurts them. They will demand that their needs be met without seeking to meet their spouse’s needs. A husband will demand submission from his wife. They may do all the right things but lack a real heart connection with their spouse. 1 Corinthians 13 will be missing from their relationship.
In parenting: a parent will demand obedience without considering the heart needs of a child. They will punish harshly, scowl, restrict, and show no mercy. The parent makes all the decisions for the child and grants them little freedom. The parent uses rewards and punishment to control a child’s behaviour without asking why a child did what they did.
In marriage: spouses will seek to meet each other’s needs. 1 Corinthians 13 will be practiced. A spouse will forgive an unfaithful partner but expect change. If the one in error persists in their ways then the spouse will take steps to save their marriage or end it – depending on the choice of the unfaithful spouse.
In parenting: the parents give the child choices and formulate guidelines with him. They provide him with opportunities for making decisions. Parents do not overlook disobedience, rebellion, and lying in their children because they love them too much to let them go down the path of destruction. They hold their child accountable and give consequences with a surrendered heart and in the right spirit. They seek to win their child’s heart and develop relationship and connection.
Gaining an understanding of true love is essential to having relationships that are healthy and satisfying.
God wants us to find the beauty of the balance.
The place where love and limits meet.
What is your perception of love? How was it formulated? Does it need some adjustment?