We tend to think of “loving one another” as all soft and comfy stuff. Lots of hugs and sweetness. Yep, I like those kinds of “loving one another” moments. But, Scripture describes a more involved action of love, a deeper, godly love that involves the tough issues of life.
Scripture says that if I love my brother, at times I will speak truth graciously in ways that may bring a sting:
“Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:5–6)
I don’t enjoy that part of love. It is hard.
When I love my friend in that way, I’m taking a chance. I’m risking being misunderstood.
In the years (actually more than three decades now) that my husband and I have served together in ministry, we’ve found that people fall into one of two camps: 1) Those who are self-absorbed and inwardly focused, and 2) those who are outwardly focused; they are more concerned about God’s kingdom being advanced than a personal agenda. They are committed to God’s glory and serving others as a priority, rather than putting themselves first.
Those who are inwardly focused tend to be easily offended and spend a lot of their thought process dwelling on how they’ve been “mistreated.” Their perception of reality is skewed by their self-absorption.
I’ve learned that a great test to know whether I’m outwardly focused or inwardly focused is how I react when I receive godly rebuke:
“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” (Psalm 141:5)
When I get angry over a friend’s rebuke, it is an indicator that I’m unwilling to consider her concerns. I’m unwilling to consider I may need to repent or that I may be in need of growth in that particular area.
Those who are outwardly focused are hungry to grow.
They readily receive the truth of God’s Word and are grateful even for the tough challenges that can bring. But those who are inwardly focused, most often close their ears to any hint that they might need to consider taking responsibility for sinful actions. All they can do is blame others and grow deeper in their bitterness.
We all naturally put ourselves first, but only when we begin to recognize our great need for a Savior, when we see ourselves as needy sinners, then humility is birthed. As we are humbled by God’s gracious work of redemption, gratitude takes hold. And as gratitude grows, our focus begins to turn upward, in appreciation for what God has done for us.
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe . . .” (Hebrews 12:28).
When I am grateful for godly rebuke, I am free to grow into the maturity God intends for me to experience.