Tough Love

In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, along with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.            1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (HCSB)

I have often heard this Scripture quoted in the same breath (or blog) with the phrase “Tough Love”. It came back to me again yesterday as I watched a drama on TV. You’ve seen the story where the rebellious teenager is given an ultimatum by parents for repeated bad choices involving drugs, alcohol, gangs, or promiscuous behavior. What is “Tough Love” about from God’s perspective?

This often quoted Scripture should be first taken in context. And, that, frankly is problematic as Paul is not very clear about what he means in “turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh”. 1 Corinthians 4 ends with Paul speaking about arrogance in the Corinthian church that has him warning them that he is coming to visit with either a whip or a gentle spirit. And immediately after his statement regarding turning someone over to Satan, Paul addresses boasting and, using Jesus’ own metaphor, reminds the people that “a little yeast works through the whole batch”.

At this point in my meditation, I am reminded of the passage in Proverbs that the LORD detests seven things and a person who stirs up dissension among the brothers is included in His list (Proverbs 6:16-19). In my experience, dissension in the family of believers will find these characteristics of PRIDE (arrogance and boasting) at the roots. And this may be the reasoning behind Paul’s seemingly harsh words that dissect the dissension out of the fellowship.

I think for me, Tough Love, when applied between myself and a family member (be it child, parent, siblings, or in church) I must turn to the Holy Spirit and stand on that promise that He will give wisdom in the measure that I need (James 1). In prayerfully seeking God’s wisdom and guidance in how many times I extend compassion and forgiveness, I need to keep in mind that it is God who judges, not my impatient flesh. The decision to extend compassion or say, “Enough!” comes with consequences that only God can determine. It is just as disobedient for me to extend compassion when God says “Enough!” as it is for me to not extend compassion when I should have. Do you see how important prayer and the seeking of the Holy Spirit’s wisdom is? This may be the time for focused fasting and prayer!

Remember that in the midst of so many controversial, difficult subjects that are addressed in this letter we call 1 Corinthians, Paul pens possibly the most well-known and beautiful passages in Chapter 13. It is love, defined and lived out for me by Jesus, that must be the driving force in my life. It is this “Jesus Love” can cover and surround me, even heal me so that it overflows out of me to others. It too can be a Tough Love because of its power. Hmmm. Now that is something else to think about.



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