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I love you. But I judge you!

April 13, 2024

You may have formidable skills and, as Paul says, understand all mysteries and have all knowledge; but if you lack love, you are nothing. Things that we consider to be remarkable will pass away, but love never ends. It will abide. So in all that you want to be and become, make sure you are loving!

That being said, I also agree with N.T. Wright who often (frustratingly) notes how the word ‘love’, in English at least, is made to carry fifteen job descriptions all at once. And he is right — pun intended! The word is so deep, people write entire philosophical volumes about it. It means so much but somehow, as often said, ends up meaning nothing. The word is simultaneously profound and vague, clear and ambiguous; use it in a speech and people will attach different meanings to it — and there’s little you can do to ensure the one you intend is the one they pick. Is it then of any surprise when eventually people re-evaluate their relationships when they realise they have different views on what love means and how it is shown? People who thought they were aligned on a matter, discover, to their dismay, how different they are.

This is the kind of conflict I want to look at; the kind that comes between close friends or family members. See below some scenarios I have in mind:

  • A couple refuses to dance to the tune of their teenage daughter’s temper tantrums and decide to assertively address the situation by disciplining her instead. She feels like she was never loved to begin with.
  • Two very close friends part ways over (questionable) life choices made by one of them, who’s left feeling judged, betrayed, and (again) unloved.
  • Someone refuses to attend his brother’s gay ‘wedding’ because of his christian convictions and he’s told (by his brother, parents and virtually his entire family) that he should throw away his backward, extreme, divisive, intolerant and (once again) unloving views. He’s advised to balance and cool down his views with compassion and realism. Besides, aren’t Christians supposed to not judge? Didn’t Jesus himself hang around tax-collectors and sinners? Who’s now too holy to witness two sinners express their (and here we go again) love?
  • A church excommunicates a person on the basis of immorality, but the outside looking world can’t see it any way other than how sanctimonious and (again) unloving the church has become. But to the church, believe it or not, the action was a difficult decision made out of love and they had to carry it out as they “mourn”.
  • Before we go any further, you may not agree with the way I bundled all these examples together as if they’re one and the same. You may feel, and rightly so, that these are complex matters to be addressed separately. It is not my intention today to address any of the scenarios mentioned, however, I’d like ponder on a common thread between them. In each case, I notice a kind of separation, or, if you will, a boundary drawn that causes us to question the concept of love.

    It is not hard to understand why. Love supposedly bears all things and covers a multitude of sins. It welcomes people as they are — rather than ostracise them. Love truly accepts people with their weaknesses and wrongs in kindness and compassion — rather than draw boundary lines. Love unites; it brings people together — rather than dividing them. Love does not consider people as projects (to work on, to change, to fix), but rather it presents its arms wide open and loves on them — A tautology for sure, but I had no choice. All this world needs is love!

    To be fair, most people know that things are much more nuanced than this. For example, how can you throw all support behind (self) destructive actions of an infant you care about? That, and most people would agree, would be unloving! This tells me that sometimes, not only are we going to draw lines out of love, but we will (if it comes to that) willingly (but reluctantly) inflict pain.

    ‘Of course it makes sense to punish a child over whom one has authority and who doesn’t know right from wrong’, you might object, ‘but this isn’t applicable for an adult’! ‘Who appointed you morality police’? ‘Who gives you the right to impose your values on others?’ ‘Is it really your place to decide what’s good and bad for other adult people capable of making decisions impacting their own lives on their own?’ ‘Also, why do you like to fight? Why can’t you leave people in peace?’

    Objections are many!

    Nevertheless, I find much wisdom in this proverb: “profuse are the kisses of an enemy”, but, “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). And since we’re talking about friendships; we know we’d rather have an honest rebuke than flattery (Because what would be the use of the friendship without honesty?) People don’t always know right from wrong but they’ll always benefit from genuine love; the kind that pushes a friend to risk disappointing them hoping to save them from (costly) mistakes they’re not able to see. Perhaps a good friend is the one that fears the evil and danger in front of you (that you’re not seeing) more than losing the friendship. And this is exactly the point of the proverb above: love sometimes requires a sort of audacity; a courageous and steady hand to wound (however much counterintuitive it seems)! In other words, unconditional support for others is perhaps not ‘love’, and those who think so might turn out to be at best blind as you or at worst cowards and real enemies.

    Once again —and I can’t stress that enough— we must be careful about this view of love (that wounds) just as much because behind it could hide an ugly kind of self righteousness and an inflated sense of your own moral superiority… Moreover, and especially for people holding positions of authority over others, this could be a perfect tool to abuse, manipulate and control others. In fact, this has been done so many times that we dread conflict solely because we don’t want people thinking we’re in this category.

    In addition to this, there’s also the fear to get it all wrong — and the following shameful regret to have antagonised people unnecessarily! This feeling is, in my opinion, commendable. It is a sign of humility and maturity if someone keeps in mind that they are not infallible! However, the fact that no one is infallible shouldn’t paralyse us into believing we can never get things right! Our fallibility shouldn’t stop us from having strong convictions. Here’s a question: would you rather support your friend in a grave mistake because there’s an unclear and remote possibility that you’re seeing things wrong or would you rather act out of courage and wound your friend because you fear more the threat that is clear and unmistakably in front of your unsuspecting friend?

    Love, it seems to me, is much more than warm fuzzy positive feelings towards people. It requires a (balanced) blend of humility and strong convictions and courage and grace… And who can do this perfectly on the first try without help?

    God is love — a fact which warms every heart. Yet, it is easy to find those who question His love — usually with sentences starting with ‘If God is truly loving...’ But since God himself (whose love is pure and perfect) is misunderstood, I guess we will never stop misunderstanding each other. Nevertheless, let me leave you with these two pieces of advice:

  • No matter how close our relationships, conflict is inevitable. And that’s especially true for people who (can) have different perspectives on an issue. What I consider fine could be seen as harmful by other people. It’s of no use to consider them judgmental (see the irony?) and close your ears to what they could be lovingly trying to prevent you from. It would be helpful to listen and understand the objections and not hold it against them — even while you disagree. Could love mean embracing even when you’re judged?
  • To the one who’s doing the ‘wounding’, be aware of the delicate procedure that it is. Get advice from others. Consider kindness and grace above all (and not rash, impulsive reactions). Plead and mourn. Don’t condescend or disdain. Remember, you’re trying to win them over, so tremble but also be steady as you oppose your loved one!
  • Love is not easy. May we be and continue becoming a truly loving people.


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    Be different! Be yourself!

    For those who do not accept them they are called intolerant for rejecting them for who they are—which is a kind of violation of basic human rights. Beside, as one of them asked, ‘who are you to impose your own morals to another human being?’


    Copyright © 2024, Remesha.