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How do you apply biblical love in a difficult relationship? Is it possible to love like Jesus and yet not be codependent in our relationships? I Corinthians 13 talks about agape love which is a selfless, self-sacrificing love.

I Corinthians 13:4-7  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love in a Difficult Relationship

As you apply that kind of love to a difficult relationship, you may get a misconstrued idea of love. You may think you need to protect which could turn into enabling. You may think you need to trust but trusting an untrustworthy person could be dangerous. You may be hoping beyond hope that someone will change when in fact they have given you no indication that they are willing to do so. Instead, you really need to deal with the problem rather than just hoping. Perhaps you are persevering by just tolerating, gritting your teeth and putting up with things that are wrong. It may be actually harder to persevere by making a difficult stand for what is right.

Applying I Corinthians 13

Love is patient and kind. We don’t want to be contentious or condescending to those with whom we are in a difficult relationship. But it does not mean that we continue to tolerate wrong over and over again. Love is not easily angered but there is a point where even God is angered at the sin and the things that people do to cause harm. Love keeps no records of wrongs but this is to prevent us from being bitter, spiteful or from trying to pay people back. It is OK to notice patterns and things that could be going wrong in the relationship. Love doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. We can make a stand for righteousness in a relationship.

The Two Parts of Love

Biblical love is misapplied when it is used to ignore problems, be a doormat and refuse to set boundaries.

Romans 13:10  Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

Love does not harm its neighbor. When we tolerate things that are harmful to the person, the relationship or to ourselves, we are actually doing harm.

Romans 2:4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

There is a compassionate toughness of God. God’s kindness leads us to repentance. He is long suffering and compassionate. But, as Galatians 6:7 teaches, he also allows us to reap what we sow. If we sow to good we reap good, but if we sow sin we also reap those consequences. God is patient with us but he does allow to experience consequences. There are two parts of God’s love. He loves us enough to allow us to suffer the consequences of our choices in the hope that we will return to him and make right choices.  We can follow the example of God’s love toward us when we are loving the difficult people in our lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Read I Corinthians 13:4-7. Do you think there may be any ways that you have misapplied any of the descriptions of love that are found in this passage? Explain.
  4. Read Romans 13:10. In what ways could your attempt to love actually be causing harm to others as well as yourself?
  5. What are some specific ways that you could love biblically but not be a doormat or tolerate others’ sin? Give some examples from your life.
  6. Have you found yourself trying to prevent someone from experiencing the consequences of their behavior? Explain the situation.
  7. Explain the compassionate toughness of God.
  8. How has this video changed your view of biblical love?
  9. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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