I have a friend, a young man, who was beaten as a child.
I don't mean spanked. I mean beaten.
When he made a mistake, and what youngster doesn't make mistakes; that's how you learn, isn't it? When he made a mistake, his parents would get angry, and they'd "discipline" him.
"This is for your own good, you know," his daddy would say as he unbuckled his big leather belt, "because we love you. We want you to be better than this." And he'd wield that heavy belt on him over and over and over.
Sometimes their "loving discipline" would result in blood or visible bruises, so he'd miss school for a while until the marks healed.
He left home at an early age, and didn't tell his parents where he went.
I want to hold him in my arms and weep with him, and most of all, I want to tell him, "Son, that's not love. I don't know what that was, maybe demons, maybe alcohol, maybe their own woundedness, but it sure as hell is not love!"
I have another friend, a young woman, who had a different sort of hell in her childhood. And when her daddy took off his belt, and announced, "This is our secret, because I love you," she learned not to fight back, not to talk about it, especially not to talk to mom.
She left home at an early age, taking her baby daughter, who was also her sister, with her. She never looked back, never told anyone where she went.
I want to hold her in my arms and weep with her, and most of all, I want to tell her, "Daughter, that's not love. I don't now what sort of sick, perverted, self-centered bullshit that was, but that sure as hell is not love!"
Just because someone says, "I'm only saying this, I'm only doing this because I love you," doesn't mean it's love. Just because they say that it's for my own good doesn't mean, well, it doesn't mean anything, really. Real love doesn't need to be announced: you can tell it's love just by looking.
It's not often this flagrant, but we do this in the church family sometimes, too. A whole lot of us have learned to cringe whenever someone starts talking about "speaking the truth in love," because it usually lacks love, and often lacks truth, too.
Sometimes the word "submission" is wielded like a stick, or "loyalty" like a ball and chain. It's not unheard of for teachers to train their people that they're the only one that can hear God, and you'd darned well better listen up when I tell you what the Bible says. It's not unheard of for offering time to be less about giving freely unto the Lord and more about my neediness or your obligation and your duty until my budget is met.
We could tell stories here. We could *all* tell stories here, couldn't we? Stories about church, stories about work, stories about family members, about teachers or babysitters or caregivers. Many of them aren't this ugly. Some of them are far worse.
My point is this: I don't care how often or how loudly they tell you that this is love, they're lying to you. Not all of them, of course, but if they're doing these things to you, let me assure you, that is NOT love.
I don't care how often or how loudly they tell you that this is how healthy families relate, they're lying to you.
Not every dad is lying, not every mom. Not every pastor or church leader is lying to you. But if they're doing things that are more about meeting their needs than about yours, then what they're doing isn't love.
This isn't about all the bad things that people do and call it love, and call it "for your good." You already know a number of things that people say is loving, but you know it's not.
This is about you and I recognizing when it isn't really love, when it isn't really for our good. This is about choosing not to live under that yoke of bondage.
It is for freedom - real freedom, not slavery with a new label - that Christ has set us free. Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Jesus bought our freedom, at a very high price, mind you. He has already set us free. But the responsibility to not submit to those old yokes of slavery, that's our job.
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