LOVING GOD: A HORIZONTAL RELATIONSHIP
Expressing Christian Love
Love is the most essential quality in producing a successful family. Love is the foundation
of every successful marriage, successful home, and successful parent-child relationship. Every
other quality necessary for such success is rooted in love. Without love, all other essential
qualities will fail. If a successful family is to exist, the family members must love each other.
While each family member must love the other family members, that love will not be
expressed in the same manner in each relationship within the family. While the love is the same in
all the relationships, love will not be expressed in the same way in each of the relationships.
Each family is composed of different relationships. Each relationship has distinctive
differences and distinctive needs. Love will respond to each of those needs in a valid manner as it
seeks what is best for the person and what is best for the family. Love always focuses on the best
interest of both the family and the person.
For example, sometimes it is necessary for love to confront, and at other times it is
necessary for love to overlook. Sometimes it is necessary for love to condemn, and at other times
it is necessary for love to encourage. Sometimes it is necessary for love to discipline, and at other
times it is necessary for love to console. Sometimes love must force the loved one to accept
responsibility, and at other times it is necessary for love to be supportive.
We have been studying what it means to love God. First, we examined the fact that loving
God means that we establish a powerful, personal relationship with God Himself. Second, we
learned to love God, we must love the rest of God's family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We
noted the enormous emphasis John, Paul, and James places on the importance of Christians loving
We now need to address an urgent question: When we accept the responsibility to love
our brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we express that love? Again, that is not one simple
question. It is actually a number of questions.
- On a typical, daily basis in normal Christian interaction of unstressed relationships,
how do Christians express love for each other?
- In answering that question we all understand:
- On no day are any of us the perfect Christian individual.
- On no day do any of us individually act with perfect maturity, wisdom, and the best judgment in all situations regarding all matters.
- Just as in our physical families in the husband-wife and parent-child relationships, daily we each must be tolerant and be patient with
- Daily we each must be willing to accept a degree of imperfection in each other.
- With those understandings, on a typical, daily basis a Christian shows love for another Christian through:
- Genuine concern.
- Steadfastness--we hang in there.
- Sharing each other's joys and sorrows.
- Being of physical and emotional assistance when it is needed.
- These are the ways in which a Christian expresses love for other Christians when their relationships with each other are sound and healthy.
- Therein lies the problem.
- In no physical family, and certainly not in God's family, the church, are all relations sound and healthy at all times.
- In fact, the larger the family the more probable it is that at least one relationship will be in a state of tension or crisis at any given
- That brings us to the second essential question: How does a Christian express love
for a Christian when their relationship is not sound and healthy, when their
relationship does exist in a state of tension or crisis?
- To answer that question, let's build a model by using our physical families and
using some truths every one of us understands.
- In every single relationship within any physical family, there are going
to be times when that relationship is going to be stressed.
- No matter how much love exists, there are going to be times when there is tension and stress in each relationship.
- Love cannot eliminate the existence of times of distress in a relationship; love can only respond to times of distress in
- There will be times and situations when the bond between a loving husband and wife will be stressed.
- The stress may arise from something that is her fault.
- It may arise from something that is his fault.
- It may arise from something which is the fault of both of them.
- It may be created by something outside their personal relationship and not under their control.
- There will be times and situations when the bond between a loving parent and a loving child will be stressed.
- The stress may arise from something the child has done.
- It may arise from something the parent has done.
- It may arise from something both of them have done.
- It may be created by factors outside their personal relationship and not under their control.
- Regardless of what the source of the distress is, the existence of the distress will alter the expression of love within the relationship.
- How two relatives show, share, and express love when there is no tension in their relationship
and how two relatives show, share, and express love when
there is tension in their relationship is entirely different.
- In both situations, the love is the same.
- It is only the way the love expresses itself which is different.
- In times of relationship distress, love must function in ways distinctly different from times of no stress in the
- At all times, every family member has four levels of responsibility to be
accepted in all family relationships.
- He or she has a responsibility to God in all family relationships.
- He or she has a responsibility to the family as a unit in all family relationships.
- He or she has a responsibility to each member in the family unit.
- A spouse-spouse relationship.
- A parent-child relationship.
- A child-child relationship.
- He or she has a responsibility to himself or herself in the family.
- When any family member rejects or neglects any one of these responsibilities it
will produce distressed relationships and crisis, and love must respond
appropriately to the crisis.
- If a husband or a wife begins to act without consideration for the other.
- If parents begin to act without consideration for their children.
- If children begin to act without consideration for their parents.
- It children begin to act without consideration for each other.
- If any of them refuse to give proper consideration to their own needs.
- Significant relationship problems will develop.
- In each of those situations, love must take different forms of initiative
to address the problems.
- Let me use a specific example: If a child is guilty of serious misconduct, the parent must love the child enough to discipline the child.
- The child will not enjoy the discipline, and administering the discipline will give neither the child nor the parent any pleasure at all.
- However, love for the child demands that discipline be exercised.
- In fact, if a parent continually refuses to discipline a child when discipline is in order, the child
will feel rejected and unloved.
- The child will conclude that the parent doesn't care anything about him.
- Though the child does not like discipline, the child comprehends
that discipline is an expression of love.
- What is the basic difference between disciplining a child and abusing a child?
- I am talking about fair, considerate discipline and not about abuse.
- Can a fair, considerate act of discipline also be an act of abuse? Yes!
- If there is love, it is an act of discipline; if there is no love, it is an act of abuse.
- If it is done in loving concern for the child, it is discipline.
- If it is done to vent my anger, frustration, and resentment, it is abuse.
- Let's now say that a husband or a wife is guilty of misconduct.
- Do you discipline your husband or wife?
- Acts of discipline which appropriately express love for your child cannot express love for your spouse.
- All that we have just observed about expressing love in the relationships within our physical families is also true about expressing love in troubled relationships in
our spiritual family.
- In our relationships as Christian brothers and sisters:
- There will come times and be situations which stress every Christian relationship-no matter how much we love
- When that stress occurs within a Christian relationship, it will alter the way love functions and is expressed.
- We all as Christians have the same four levels of responsibility in our Christian relationships.
- We all have a responsibility to God.
- We all have a responsibility to the congregation.
- We all have a responsibility to the members-as leaders, as teachers, as fellow members
- We all have a responsibility to self.
- When any Christian rejects or neglects any one of those responsibilities,
it will produce distressed relationships and crisis, and love must
respond appropriately to each situation.
- Let's examine two specific New Testament examples of distressed Christian relationships and the corresponding expression of love.
- First, I call your attention to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-14 (Read).
- There are two discernible problems in that congregation which had a bearing upon this specific situation.
- Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that some in the congregation were concerned that those who died before
Jesus second coming would not receive their spiritual
- Paul said that absolutely was not the case.
- In fact, Paul said that those Christians who were living at the time Christ returned would not be
gathered to Jesus until the dead were first raised.
- Paul states in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 that there were a number of Christians there who believed Jesus would return in the immediate future--he was coming at just any
- Paul said that was not true.
- Several things had to transpire before Jesus returned.
- Because they thought it was true, they were convinced that there was no need for them to continue to
- Now look at the text we read.
- Paul commanded them by the authority of Christ not to associate with or to keep away from Christians
who were living in idleness and rejecting the tradition
Paul and his companions established for them to
- What was the tradition that these Christians were to imitate? When Paul and his companions taught
- They were not idle.
- They paid for the food they ate.
- They worked hard night and day to earn enough to pay for their own needs so they
would be a burden to no one.
- Why did they do that?
- Did they do that because they had no right to be supported? Paul said they certainly had
- However, they did not exercise that right so they could set an example for these and
give them reason to imitate their practice.
- Further, when they were with them, they gave the commandment that if a Christian was not willing
to work to care for himself, they were not to feed
- However, since they left, some of the members had become lazy and lived their lives in idleness
becoming meddlers and gossips.
- Paul commanded these Christians again to go to work, provide for their own physical needs, and eat
their own food.
- Any Christian who refuses to obey this commandment was to be noted and refused Christian
- Why? To punish him or drive him away?
- Absolutely not!
- They are seeking to make him ashamed of his wicked behavior and change it.
- He is not to be treated as though he were an enemy; he is to be corrected as a member
of the family.
- This is not a withdrawal of love!
- It is love expressing itself in a distressed relationship.
- Did not John say in 1 John 3:17 that God's love could not exist in an uncompassionate Christian who observed a brother in physical need and
did nothing to help him? He did.
- If you are talking about sound, healthy relationships, that is the way love must express itself.
- But if you are talking about a distressed relationship wherein a lazy Christian refuses to work, lives
his life idly, and goes about meddling and gossiping,
that is not the way that love expresses itself.
- Love must do all it can to get that person to accept his rightful responsibility.
- Love must urge that person to accept his responsibility to the spiritual family.
- The second example I call to your attention is 1 Corinthians 5.
- A Christian man has taken his father's wife away from his father, in all likelihood his stepmother, and they are living together in
- Paul says in verse 3 that he had judged him as though he were there.
- In verse 4 and 5 he commands them to function as a congregation under his directive and the authority of Christ to deliver that person to
Satan for the destruction of this fleshly ungodliness in order that his
soul might be in a saved condition when the Lord returns.
- If they do not do this, this man's influence is going to become a destructive evil force in the congregation.
- He had already instructed them that they were not to associate with sexually immoral people.
- He was not talking about people who were not Christians; he was talking about people who were Christians.
- They were not to associate with a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or who
worships idols, or who is a slanderer, or a drunkard, or a thief.
- The refusal to associate is to be so complete that they do not even eat with such persons as
an act of Christian fellowship and acceptance.
- Did not Paul say in Romans 13:8 that love of fellow Christians was the
debt that could never be repaid, and in verse 10 that love
worked no harm to his neighbor?
- He did, and in sound, healthy relationships, that is the way love
expresses itself among Christians.
- However, when a Christian reverts back in his former life of sin
practicing and living in the ungodliness and evil that he was
saved from in Christ, love expresses itself in holding that
person responsible for the evil he commits.
- If love does not, the person's soul will surely be lost.
- If love does not, the person's evil will lead others into evil as well thus bringing great hurt to the spiritual family.
- Is the purpose of withdrawing association to destroy this Christian?
- Absolutely not!
- The person has already reverted to Satan's ways and has destroyed his relationship with God.
- The action is taken to make him aware that his ungodliness has already destroyed his relationship with God's family.
- He is enduring the consequences of his actions to move him to repent and restore his spiritual estate.
- This is done as an expression of love in the concern of love.
- We need to make these observations about Christian discipline.
- Christian discipline is an act of love just as certainly as parental discipline is an act
- If there is no love, it is not discipline.
- Christian discipline is not intended to be an opportunity for us to vent our anger or contempt.
- Never is the purpose of Christian discipline to run a brother or sister off.
- The reason Christian discipline is so ineffective in the church today is found in the fact there is too little bond and relationship of love.
- The wayward brother or sister feels no loss.
- More commonly, they feel only relief.
If a husband and wife are having a problem in their marriage, it is the responsibility of both
of them, not one of them, to address the problem. If a parent and child are having a relationship
problem, both must feel and accept responsibility to address the problem.
In our relationships as Christians, we each must accept the responsibility to correct any
relationship problem which exists. We must not be a "testing" member who uses a problem to sit
back and test others to see if they care. We must not be a "no responsibility" member who just
says, "it's not my fault." We must not be a "pamper me" member who says, "Be nice to me and
do what I want and maybe I'll come back." We must not be a "selfish" member who says, "I
don't need them; all I need is me." We must not be a "beg me" member who is always
manipulating, always seeking control.
We must be a responsible member of God's family who accepts responsibility to God, to
the congregation as a whole, to fellow Christians as members of the family, and to self.
transcribed by Christy Hesslen
EXALTING CHRIST, Chapter Ten
Chapter Nine Chapter Eleven
table of contents
Copyright © 1992, David Chadwell
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