Tough Love and Jesus

“But what would Jesus do?” the man challenged.

In recent days I spoke with a parent who many times past the first has taken the “tough love” approach with his young adult child. He grieved as we spoke, was quiet and pale. I tried to console him by validating his actions, “You did the right thing, though.” I know this man well, am privy to all the sordid, long-lasting actions; know of his love and kindness and care of his now adult child. He has been more than fair, long-suffering, loving and supportive.

He stared at me. “Did I? I’m not sure.”

Seems that at the last encounter with his child, someone else was there, and that person castigated the father for not continually taking back into his home his adult child. It does not matter what actions have taken place; the blatant disrespect does not count, nor does the lying, drunkenness, disregard for others, disappearance for months on end, laziness, lack of dependability…“None of it matters,” in essence said the man. “This is your child, and no matter what he does, you should always provide a place for him.”

The man concluded his argument by looking straight into the father’s eyes and saying, “What would Jesus do?”

And now the hurting father looked into my eyes and said, “I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing. What would Jesus do?”

What would Jesus do? How would He respond? What steps would He take?

The Bible gives us at least two hints.

One.        He left the safe flock of sheep, went into the night, and brought home the wandering one.

Two.     He plaited a whip and drove from the temple the money changers who were disrespecting God’s house, who were making it a den of thieves.

Since my conversation with the troubled father a day or so ago, I have thought much about this subject, and, trying to be objective and fair have considered: “What would Jesus do?”

I believe He would do as did my friend, for He is a loving, kind Father. But He is not a wimp, and although His teachings include “turning the other cheek,” and “giving away a coat,” it also encompasses driving cheats from the temple, and saying to the rich young ruler. Give away your riches, or you can’t walk with me. And when the young man could not make that dedication, he walked away–sorrowfully, yes–but he walked away. Nowhere in scripture do we find that Jesus ran after the young man, saying, Oh now I’ve changed my mind. If you find my sayings too hard, just ignore what I previously said. Just do what you can. Come on now and walk with me.

It’s a grievous subject, one that causes deep inside weeping as I write. I know we have spoken of this before, but today it weighs heavily on me.

What do you think? What would Jesus do?

8 thoughts on “Tough Love and Jesus

  1. renaissanceguy

    What Jesus would do is love the person enough not to leave them in a wretched condition. He told the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more.” He sent away the rich young ruler because he would not give his wealth to the poor at Jesus’ command. He called the Pharisees “whitewashed sepulchres.” He warned people of Gehenna if they did not repent of their sins.

    You are right, Shirley, when you say that Jesus was no wimp. He also did the tough thing, when the tough thing was the most loving thing.

    Even secular people realize that a person has to hit rock bottom sometimes before he can start to find his way upward. Confirming somebody in their sinful ways is enabling and encouraging them to go on sinning.

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  2. dean

    Sister Buxton, I must contribute. I understand tough love. I have given and received a portion thereof. I do not understand those who so quickly tell others what they should do …… and have yet to make that same heart rending decision themselves. It is one of the most painful and horrific responses you would ever have to give one you love.
    If any reader of this blog has never had to do this….you are indeed fortunate. God help anyone so challenged, to make the correct decision.

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  3. Deanna

    To everyone who faces this dilemma: My heart goes out to you.

    In the past few months, our family has faced a similar situation. It hurts deeply to say, “No,” to those you love. I’ve spent hours asking God for direction and wisdom.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not beneficial to sacrifice the rest of the family in order to enable a person’s continual pursuit of wrong choices. And, in past experiences, I’ve discovered that the difficult person somehow survives on his/her own after we have withdrawn our support.

    It takes courage love tough. My prayers are with this hurting family.

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  4. KATRINA, thank you for your comments, your compassion and your understanding. And yes, there is probably no more heart-breaking decision a parent must make than this one. Please pray for this family–especially for the wayward child.

    JAYLEIGH, my heart breaks for these parents. I am so raw from our situation here that it is easy for me to empathize with others who face similar problems. I will be praying for you and Rob that God will give you the right words to say to help alleviate the pain of these people.

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  5. Rob says that unconditional love is NOT saying that I love you, therefore no matter what you do, you will always have a place here at home with me… but loving someone enough to say I LOVE YOU and because I love you, I cannot accept your bad behavior and allow you to continually act in a way which is cross-wise of God’s will and man’s law.

    Shirley, what amazing timing you have in writing this posting! I began reading it when there was a knock at the door. It was a man whose 19-year-old son was just taken (rightfully so!) by the police for a crime that happened this morning. The parents are regular members of our church, the son sort-of skirts around the edges. And now the parents are coming to Rob and me, looking for validation in their actions of tough love.

    We made sure to tell them that young Tom’s actions DO NOT reflect badly on his parents, that he is an adult and therefore is responsible for himself. We did our best to console the parents, but it’s only just happened and they are rattled.

    So thank you for this insight. I will share this with the parents yet tonight.

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  6. God, our heavenly Father, waits anxiously for His children to come back home, but when we come we must leave the disobedience behind us. We have to come in repentance. When we come to Him this way, He is there with open arms waiting to receive us and restore us.
    When it is our time to go and meet Him through death or the judgement, if we are not washed by His blood, living a redeemed and Godly life, then He will not receive us into heaven even though He love us greatly.
    Is it any different for us earthly parents with our children. I am sure that this father would gladly allow HIs son back into the fold, if the son made things right and changed his ways, just as Jesus would.
    Just my thoughts. A heartbreaking decision for any parent to have to make!

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  7. Thank you, Kathy, for this excellent thoughtful response. Very enlightening (and comforting, in a unique way) is the the consideration that indeed God did banish His children from Eden. Some no doubt consider such action heavy-handed and cruel.

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  8. My response is to this statement: “This is your child, and no matter what he does, you should always provide a place for him.”

    The ultimate “place” provided is a heavenly home, our Father has provided it to whosoever will. But there is also a place prepared for those who reject the sacrifice of Calvary. At some point, each man and woman has to choose for themselves. God never quits loving, no matter our choices, but the ultimate responsibility lies upon our shoulders.

    It is a painful situation for this parent, but they are not wrong to put their foot down and I’m sorry they were made the feel they had done wrong in doing so. The original “children” (Adam and Eve) were cast out of the Garden of Eden.

    The answer to What Would Jesus Do is indeed complicated.

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