The Three Kinds of Tough Love in the Bible
We’ve all heard of “tough love,” and, in the Bible, God shows us one kind of tough love he imposes on us and another He asks us to show to our children, but there is another type Jesus spoke of that’s the toughest of all.
“So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord.”
– Leviticus 22:31
The dictionary definition of “tough love” defines it as enforcing certain constraints on a person(s) for promoting their welfare or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions.
“Keep His statutes and commandments, which I am giving you today, so that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may live long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”
In the above verse, Moses tells the people that honoring God and following his rules for living as found in the Scriptures will bring prosperity and long life. God showed his “tough love” for humankind by giving rules to benefit, not oppress them.
When this failed, God took the unprecedented step of having his son live, suffer and die as a human to free humankind from the bondage of sin under the law by paying the price in their place.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.”
The Bible instructs parents to discipline their children properly. Out of love, some parents want to give their children all they can. Some never want to say “no” so that their children never suffer disappointment. But raising the child without discipline is more harmful to their well-being. According to the Bible, “tough love” is what’s needed.
“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
At the same time, the Bible instructs parents to be respectful and loving toward their children.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”
– Psalm 103:13
In the above verse, the meaning of the word fear is a synonym for the word reverence or respect.
Jesus talked about a type of love that we might say is the most challenging love of all to give. Loving others, those who do not love you, and your enemies.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those, who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.”
But without a doubt, the hardest love to give is to those we would call enemies.
Jesus said: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
– Luke 6:35
God redeems sinners who have committed evil. But mere humans, like ourselves, find it incredibly challenging to offer kindness, mercy, and forgiveness to evil humans. It is the biggest challenge for most Christians. It is the toughest kind of love of all to show.
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;.”
– Luke 6:36-37