Today's reading was John 13:31-35,
When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
How do we show that love for one another? Might the part about loving others just as He loved us involve the use of tough love on occasion?
In today's reading from Acts 11:1-18, God presents (on a large sheet) a bit of tough love to Peter. Three times God insists that Peter abandon the dietary code of his upbringing and eat what was "unclean",
Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. (Acts 11:4-10)Challenging things always seemed to happen to Peter in threes. But was this one a bad thing? Not for us it wasn't,
And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’ (Acts 11:15-18)There are of course other examples of God's tough love for us, but for some reason people don't particularly want to hear about the things that are hard to swallow on a pleasant spring Sunday morning any more than Peter did when he dined in Joppa.
Back in 2006, Frank Schaeffer posted a piece on God's tough love in which he wrote:
"God's love comes as a kick in the ass. Reality is a jolt to the senses, like when we first realize that our very existence makes us all killers. We live because other creatures die. But we filter out this reality for the same reason we'd rather buy our steaks in the supermarket than from a slaughterhouse reeking of blood.
Even when we wish for good things there is a dark side. When my Marine son went to war, every time I heard the words, 'Today a Marine was killed,' I prayed, 'Please don't let it be John!' I knew I was really praying, 'Let another father get the bad news.'
Little is clear, let alone black and white. It turns out that steaks do come from slaughterhouses and even good prayers can be selfish. And in this world, if writing doesn't reflect paradox it is a lie. Telling only "nice stories"--about life, about religion--can be its own kind of lying."
So pardon me when I tell some of the un-nice stories about the goings on in the church. Its only because I love it that I am so tough on it.