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John David Hicks, Evangelist / Bible Teacher • Winter 2014 • Volume 17 Number 3 

Love Stoppers

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

By John David Hicks

When a couple attends marriage counseling and are thinking of getting a divorce, I ask them this question: “When you got married, were you in love with each other?” They almost always say, “Yes, we were in love and that’s why we got married. But now we can’t stand each other.”

How does love between two people break down? A relationship will never work if there is a lack of trust. Trust plays the dominant role in any relationship. In the Bible, this trust relationship is called faith.

To trust or to have faith in another person you expect him or her to be honest and reliable. Respect is at the center of your relationship. You expect your spouse to keep their word and confidences, and to stay with you when the going gets tough. You learn to trust someone when you share your life with them and they do what they say they are going to do. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Trust is earned and recognized over time. The formula goes something like this: Trust = Integrity + Consistency + Time. When a person says what they mean and means what they say, we say they are trustworthy.

You can’t have a close, healthy relationship without trust. In marriage, you need to be able to trust what your partner tells you.

Four major things—what I call “love stoppers”—destroy trust:

The first love stopper is lying. God who is love cannot lie, but the devil our enemy has been a liar from the beginning.

A couple cannot have love if they lie to each other. Lies damage the relationship and break trust. A person lies because they have something to hide, breaking a bond in the relationship. Trust must be restored or your love will break down. There must be a commitment to tell each other the truth (Eph. 4:15).

It’s hard to trust someone who is dishonest or deceitful, who misled you or betrayed you. Some people lie even to themselves because they do not want to deal with the truth. Lying becomes a habit when you want the easy way out. But it leads to mistrust and alienation.

The second love stopper is faultfinding. You cannot trust a faultfinder. Satan’s name means a prosecutor at law, an accuser, or faultfinder. The prosecutor never talks about your good points. He will bring up all the dirty laundry and ruthlessly accuse you until you feel condemned. Satan uses guilt and shame to destroy you. Guilt comes when you feel bad about doing something wrong or you are blamed for committing some offense. Shame comes with a painful feeling of humiliation mixed with regret, self-hate, and dishonor. Faultfinding and blaming destroys relationships with others and with God.

Love needs acceptance, admiration, appreciation, and emotional safety. So we become angry and are deeply hurt when there is constant criticism, impatience, labeling, contempt, or discrediting of our thoughts or feelings. You can’t build a relationship with ridicule, threats, or put-downs. You may have differences and contrasting opinions, but don’t let faultfinding rob you or your spouse of your worth.

When your character is attacked, mutual respect is undermined. The temptation is to retaliate or withdraw and not share your feelings. When you are unfairly judged or mistreated, it is hard to love. But it is the nature of love to care and forgive. The Bible says we can forgive because we are loved and forgiven. God has had compassion and mercy on us, so we can offer forgiveness for another’s offense. You will know when you have forgiven someone when you don’t have to get even.

When you refuse to forgive, you get bitter. Bitterness, it’s been said, is drinking poison and thinking it will hurt someone else. A bitter person becomes hypersensitive, ungrateful, insincere, holds grudges, and has mood swings. But forgiveness sets you free, because you don’t have to get even.

A judgmental spirit began when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We want to be like a god, knowing good and evil. In judgment we are critical of another to build up ourselves or to make ourselves look good. When we judge, we base our judgment on the criteria of our own choosing. God’s judgment is based on knowing all truth; ours is not. That is why the New Testament is so emphatic in commanding us as disciples of Jesus not to judge.

There is a difference between discernment and judgment. Discernment seeks understanding and looks for the fruit. Judgment speaks out of a fallen emotional state. I may discern that a person is trying to sell me something that’s not very good. Jesus told us to discern, to be “fruit inspectors” (Matt. 7:16). We have to practice this kind of discernment all the time. But as Christians we are not permitted to become judgmental, whereby we make ourselves feel better by contrasting ourselves with others.

What then is the best way to relate to a situation in someone’s life that irritates you or is a problem to you? How does God deal with a problem or sin in your life? He attacks the problem, not the person. This is what I say to a couple I’m counseling: “If I sin, if I do something wrong, God does not attack me or my character. He attacks the sin or the problem. He will say, ‘John, you sinned. Confess it, put it behind you. Accept my forgiveness. Get up and go on with your life.’” The gift of no condemnation sets me free.

Almost every divorce has some form of lying and faultfinding involved. When trust is broken, love flees. Your decision to “think the best first of another person” is the foundation of a life-giving relationship. It is a challenge to love when you are disappointed, stressed out, or angry about circumstances. But God’s love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). And God lives in you (1 John 4:4). You can do this because “God loves you dearly, and he has called you to be his very own” (Romans 1:7 NLT).

The third love stopper is being double-minded. A double-minded person has no trust or faith. James describes the double-minded person as being “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6-8). Love requires faith or trust to survive. Love “always trusts” (1 Cor. 13:7). It’s hard to be in partnership with someone who doesn’t offer you the benefit of the doubt, or who questions your motives.

Such a person, Jesus said, tries to serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). As such, he is “unstable,” which comes from a Greek word meaning “unsteady, wavering, in both his character and feelings.” A double-minded person is restless and confused and can’t make up his mind. He will say one thing and do another. Such a person is always in conflict with himself. Until he makes a decision, he is not free to love. Love is expressed not in how you feel toward another person, but in how you behave.

A double-minded person doubts the promises or word of another. Your doubts about God or others hinder the relationship and your prayers. “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord!”

But God promises to give wisdom generously to those who are not double-minded but ask in faith (James 1:5-6). They are decisive. “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded…. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:8, 10). Paul writes, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5:17). The double-minded person has no commitment to the will of God (John 7:17).

The fourth love stopper is a lack of commitment. True love demands a commitment. God has chosen to love you. “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’” (Jer. 31:3). The NRSV says, “I have continued my faithfulness to you.” “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God has promised: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

Marriage was instituted and blessed by God. Marriage is a public declaration of the commitment of loyalty between a man and a woman. The absence of loyalty will make the marriage shallow and you will end up with broken promises. Your love will grow in the difficulties and struggles of life. That is where all relationships are established. Love is a risk of faith or trust. Thus, love demands courage that will risk trust and self-disclosure. When you take this risk, you are able to say, “I see who you are and I really like who you are!”

Your commitments will shape your life. Until you make a commitment, you have only hope and empty possibilities. Commitment is what unites people of different temperaments and talents. Commitment gives you the depth, drive, and perseverance to make your relationship a success.

In Psalm 15:3-4, David describes a person who walks with God as one who speaks the truth, refuses to slander, and keeps his promises. Then he adds, “He who does these things will never be shaken.” Your commitment not to be deceitful, not to fault find, not to be double-minded but decisive will bind any relationship together.

The big issue of love is not clarity, but commitment. Marriage is about two people surrendering themselves to each other. “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine” (Song of Solomon 6:3). “Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10 NRSV). To be known and truly loved is one of the greatest experiences of life. Make the commitment.

There is a Swedish proverb that says, “Love me when I least deserve it because that is when I really need it.” Is that not what God does? As God’s child do what Jesus said: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

TO MY PRAYER PARTNERS

May the blessing of Christmas and the gift of love be your portion this new year. Thank you for your prayers and support (Philippians 4:19).

Your Brother in Christ,

John David Hicks

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