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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

You Always Hurt the One You Love

Feb 8, 2017

In the midst of a busy speaking schedule in Brisbane my wife and I managed to have some time out for brunch. As we enjoyed our meal near the beach, over the sound system they played an old John Lennon song: his 1971 “Jealous Guy”. The chorus has these words:

I didn’t mean to hurt you
I’m sorry that I made you cry
Oh my I didn’t want to hurt you
I’m just a jealous guy

love 10As is so often the case, it spurred me on to pen another article. I also thought of an older tune with similar sentiments. I refer to the Mills Brothers’ 1944 classic, “You Always Hurt the One You Love.” These two songs, along with a million others, make the obvious connection between love and hurt.

The more you love someone, the greater the chance of being hurt by that person if the love goes awry. If you could not care less about a person, they have a far less chance of hurting you. So love is always a risky thing, as love can be rejected or abused. And that hurts.

But many folks in the world today have this idea that love means never hurting someone. Plenty of Christians think that way too. They feel that if you are really being loving, you will never ever hurt someone’s feelings, or offend them, or get them upset.

But that is certainly not the biblical view of love. Real love means willing the highest good of the other person, and that may well mean hurting them – at least in the short term – for their good in the long term. Thus if a brother or sister is living in sin, the most loving thing you can do is challenge them, reprove them, and tell them to get off that dangerous path.

Sure, it will likely hurt them and offend them, but what is worse: allowing them to keep on sinning, straight into a lost eternity, or love them enough to correct them and get them back to where they ought to be? So biblical love will have an element of hurt and pain, just as a surgeon or dentist may inflict a bit of pain, but in order to achieve a much better outcome.

And we find this taught in Scripture as well. A classic text on this is found in the writings of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 7:2-13 we find these words:

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.
For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. By all this we are encouraged.

Much like Lennon sang 2000 years later, Paul was telling the Corinthians:

I didn’t mean to hurt you
I’m sorry that I made you cry

But he loved them enough to hurt them by telling them the truth, and by confronting them about sin in the camp. And thankfully a very good outcome ensued: the Corinthians endured some godly sorrow and repented, and got back into right standing with God. That is always a good outcome.

That is biblical love in action. It does not wink at or overlook or ignore sin, but deals with it head on. That is always the loving thing to do. Sure, getting the right timing is essential, and backing it all up with prayer is crucial. But withholding vitally-needed truth is never a good thing.

Let me close with a few quotes I often use when I speak on this topic:

“The person who loves you most will tell you the most truth.” Paul Washer

“When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” Thomas Sowell

“Telling the truth and making someone cry is better than telling a lie and making someone smile.” Paolo Coelho

“The Bible may hurt you with the truth but it will never comfort you with a lie.”

[959 words]

4 Responses to You Always Hurt the One You Love

  • “But many folks in the world today have this idea that love means never hurting someone. Plenty of Christians think that way too”.

    Which leads Christians to erroneously saying “that hurts therefore it can’t be of God”.

    Yet Peter wrote “… knowing that the same kinds of sufferings ate being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the whole world … after you have suffered a little while …God … will Himself … restore you”.

  • Great word, Bill. Everyone needs a bit of truth or ‘tough love’ now and again. Of course, truth needs to be tempered with mercy and grace as well. Wisdom is knowing when to show which!

  • Any hurt Christian due to sin will be greatly blessed and ultimately smile broadly by taking to heart Psalm 19. The law of Christ is the counsel of the God who took my sins so seriously that He became man in order to bear the holy and just and eternal punishment FOR every one, and OF every one of my actions of evil – the transgression of the good, spiritual and holy law of the Living God, in order that I should now live by faith, within the love of that law BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD. Amazing, love, how can it be that Thou, my God shouldst die for me? Romans chapter 8 verses 1 to 4 SAYS these hugely, untellable wonderful truths. Therefore we can tell each other what hurts the pride of our flesh, crosses the will of our flesh and makes the demand that true love does “Get it right with God – now”. As Paul said “Stop sinning.”

  • Faithful teaching Bill

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