Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bold Love (offering love in the most impossible places)

Confrontation. Ugh. The very sound of the word causes the skin to crawl and the stomach to sink. Most of us would rather run and hide than confront someone who has hurt us. On the other hand, some people rather enjoy fighting back, but rarely with the goal of reconciliation. (click here for the topic of vengeance)

Before moving forward on the subject of “bold love” and some of what it entails, there must be a prerequisite here. Assuming that we have journeyed significant time through the processes of healing—honestly facing our wounds while allowing Jesus to shine the searing light of His truth on each situation; refusing to believe and accept Satan’s lies and false messages through our wounds; and finally, repenting by refusing to be dead, refusing to mistrust (not care about) others, and refusing to despise intimacy and passion.
(The latter is from The Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allender, Chapter 12, and we will move toward this in later topics of healing.)

Many of the processes of healing have been discussed on this blog site beginning in the December 2010 archive. Albeit a very condensed version of the process! If you cannot identify with the above, please consider it before attempting the bold love discussed next. Maturity comes through such a healing journey, and its timetable is different for each person, sometimes vastly so. “The common factor in the process is that it will lead to a freedom to love.” (The Wounded Heart, p. 240)

Hold on. Wait a minute. Depending on the person and hurt you are working to forgive, you might be thinking, no way on earth will I ever love ________!

In earlier sub-topics on forgiveness, I’ve admitted that some people and offenses are “easier” to forgive than others, depending on our relationship with the person and how deep the wound. But bold love includes forgiveness. It does not, in case you are wondering, remove righteous anger or say the hurt didn’t matter. Quite the opposite, in fact. Romans 12:9 tells us that “love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Bold love in the realm of forgiveness can be defined as, “the free gift that voluntarily cancels the debt in order to free the debtor to become what he might be if he experiences the joy of restoration.”  Forgiveness can then be "defined as:  (1) a hunger for restoration, (2) bold love, and (3) revoked revenge.” Love and forgiveness, like the healing journey, have no specific formula or exact process for each person and situation. (click here to read "One Size Does Not Fit All") The heart of the lover must be free to imaginatively ponder what it means to give grace to an offender. (The Wounded Heart, pp. 239 & 242)

One of those ways includes confrontation. Confrontation involves rebuke, and rebuke opens the door to repentance. “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3)

Jesus gives us specific instruction towards our brothers and sisters in the faith. (Keep in mind the timetables will vary greatly, with no exact steps or techniques for every circumstance.)
"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend.”

And if he or she doesn’t listen…
“…take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church.”

And if that doesn’t work…
“…you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.”
(The Message, Matthew 18:15-17)

Whoa. This is not something we see everyday. Nor is this permission to gossip or tattletale if the offender does not listen to us. Such an act must flow from a heart aiming for redemption in another, AND be preceded by MUCH prayer.

What if the offender is not a fellow believer? Because of the love of Christ and his entire mission to save that which was lost, set captives free, and restore us to our original glory (Isaiah 61:1-3), we still offer forgiveness and the possibility of redemption. If the person does not admit their wrong or move toward redemption, we are left to simply back away and try again (for redemption) another time. (forgiveness can still happen on our part regardless of the offender's response)

To address every unique situation would be nothing short of impossible, and the full topic of forgiveness and bold love can only be contained not in one book, but several! Each of us must look at our own relationships and carefully walk with God through prayer, listening, and studying his Word (along with the wise counsel of others with experience) to find the best individual route. For me it took eight months of such before I could bring to light the past abuse of a pastor. Yet another relationship took only a month or two. Both preceded by a few years of deep healing.

If the person you are working to forgive is someone you live with, strongly consider the counsel of a wise friend, pastor, or biblically sound and godly counselor (unfortunately not all are the same!). There are so many layers to work through. I would also suggest the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge (for women, or Wild At Heart by John Eldredge for men).

With God’s grace at work within us, we can boldly go where few people do—loving by way of confronting, and with the goal of restoration for another human heart.

**Note:  If you are dealing with an abuser, or past abuser, do NOT confront such a person alone. As I mentioned before, it took 8 months of specific preparation for me to confront, preceded by a few years of deep healing--even then, my husband and I went with a trusted mediator with experience, and with much counseling and help from others trained in such a confrontation.

(We offer counseling through Rally Point Ministries, and when we see that more is needed than what we can offer, we have a few recommendations for counseling. You can contact us if you need help.)

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