Tough Love - Saying "No" as an Act of Deepest Affection
With books like Love Must Be Tough (1983), Christian-oriented writers like James Dobson challenged overly permissive assumptions about how we ought to treat each other. Caught in the cultural down draft, the definition of love had softened to the point that people were killing each other with (too much) kindness, and with too many yeses. By toughening love, Dobson, and others, reconnected love with accountability and responsibility.
The Cycle of (Too Much) Kindness
Scenes like the following are all too familiar. Whenever there is a tender relationship, there is the possibility that someone in the relationship will take advantage of others, and that some others in the relationship will be taken advantage of. In these unhealthy relationships, the user uses love as leverage to get what they want, and the "useds" use syrupy, permissive love as an excuse to keep on giving.
Adult son: Mom, I really need $1,000.
The mom: Son, your dad an I gave you some money just last month.
Adult son: Yes mom, but things are tight and I'm out again.
The mom: Have you had any luck with your job search?
Adult son: I've tried, but they are just not hiring - you know, the economy.
The mom: Son, your dad and I can't keep giving your money to live on.
Adult son: Just this once more mom. I really need the money.
The mom: O.K. son, just this one more time.
The mom: (to herself) At least he knows that I love him.
Tough Love introduced new vocabulary into the language of relationships. One of the new terms is Learned Helplessness. Learned helplessness is what happens when people adopt a helpless, dependent, and unrepentant approach to life after being bailed out of their problems again and again.
Natural Consequences is another Tough Love term. Natural consequences are the bad things that naturally follow bad decisions. A popular saying summarizes natural consequences: "Play stupid games, win stupid prizes."
Natural Consequences have a way of waking people up. The pain of running headlong into a wall will convince you to never run into any other walls - unless someone (over) protects you from the natural consequence of "Ouch - that hurts!" This over protecting is called Enabling. An Enabler is someone who makes it possible for another to continue self-destructive behavior by making it impossible for them to suffer the full and painful consequences of that behavior.
Unable to say "no," fearful of losing love, and addicted to approval, enablers are Codependent. In effect, a permissive perpetual enabler is just as "hooked" as any addict. Being unable to say "no" for fear of losing love, and being hooked into the cycle of learned helplessness and enabling is the core of Codependency.
But I Love Him
Love is the leverage used by the perpetually irresponsible. If a perpetually irresponsible adult can convince someone else to "love" them in a way that allows them to never get a job, to never end their addiction, to never stop philandering, or etc., then they have sidestepped the natural consequences.
Love is also the self-justification of enablers. When a perpetual enabler perpetually prevents their loved one from suffering the natural consequences of their irresponsibility, the good feeling they get from their "love" blinds them to the harm they are doing.
And harm is being done. By giving in to them again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, irresponsible people are empowered to remain irresponsible. Learned helplessness is not pretty. Learning how to live responsibly by being held accountable is much prettier.
Foster's Home for Children
Foster's Home for Children has been a part of the annual budget of the Liberty Church of Christ for many years. Tony Bloom, our speaker for the morning of February 19, 2017 works for Foster's Home in public relations and fund raising. This article is written in connection with Tony's visit to give you some hard data about Foster's Home. Additional information can be found at fostershome.org.
Sherwood Foster, oilman and rancher, with his wife Myrtie, founded the home named in their honor. Children came to live at the first house in 1960. Since its humble beginnings, Foster’s Home has served over 4,000 children and is affiliated with the churches of Christ.
Sherwood and Myrtie Foster chartered the children’s home in 1958 and the first children were taken into care in the winter of 1960. Since that time, Foster’s Home has provided for the needs of over 4,000 Texas children. From one home located on a 55 acre site in the northern edge of Stephenville, the facilities have grown to include twelve residential group care homes; Administration building; Mabee Health, Education, and Services Center; Commissary; Pittman Family Center, a multi-purpose facility; barn and livestock pens.
Since 1960, Foster’s Home for Children has demonstrated the ability to meet the needs of troubled children and families by providing residential group care, foster family care, and adoptions. Foster’s Home services, based on strong Christian values, are presented by our professional staff in an educational approach, teaching appropriate skills for interactive living. Foster’s Home operates on sound financial principles with very limited long-term debt. The day to day operations are supported by faithful individual donors and approximately 300 Churches of Christ throughout Texas.
Foster’s Home is licensed as a Residential Group Operation with the State of Texas, and is also licensed as a Child Placing Agency with the State. Foster’s Home is a member in good standing with the following professional organizations: , Texas Coalition of Homes for Children, and is an Accredited Charity by the Better Business Bureau.
Sherwood and Myrtie Foster’s Home for Children has embraced the Sanctuary Model of Trauma Informed Care as the conduit for implementing its mission to children and families suffering from violence, neglect, abuse, addiction, racism and trauma. Sanctuary is based on trauma theory and systems theory, which makes it particularly effective for an entire organization. Sanctuary is based on the idea that healing from trauma, stress and adversity requires creating an environment that promotes healing.
Sanctuary uses S.E.L.F. as the lens through which it examines the seven commitments, use of safety plans and daily living in the neighborhood of Foster’s Home. The S.E.L.F. framework stands for: • Safety • Emotions • Loss • Future. Sanctuary-trained staff are expected to be role models for healthy relationships among clients and treatment providers and to make safety and non-violence major priorities across the milieu.
Developing safety plans for clients and staff members is a core component of the Sanctuary Model. These plans are constantly evolving and contain internal and external de-escalation techniques for clients and staff to use until they can regain control of their emotions. These techniques distract clients from focusing on what is upsetting them and assists them to internalize de-escalation techniques. Every person in the Foster’s Home neighborhood carries a safety plan, from the president to the youngest child.
- Foster’s Home for Children is an Accredited Charity by the Better Business Bureau, having met their 20 standards of accreditation by the Better Business Bureau for each of the last 5 years.
- Foster’s Home for Children owes no debt.
- In the last 5 years, over $4 million has been invested in campus expansion and renovation.
- Since 1960, the mission of Foster’s Home for Children has been “to heal the wounds of troubled children and families.” To accomplish this, we use evidence based models and treatment protocols.
- Foster's Home regularly achieves over 99.9% compliance rating on state licensing standards.
Wee Little Repentance
Worse for the wear, repentance is a Christian teaching that has become thin and threadbare with misuse. Once viewed as a substantial Christian teaching, repentance is now viewed as little more than a passing emotional reaction. Some regard repentance as being complete, in other words, immediately after emotions of guilt or remorse have passed. This thinned-out view of repentance is challenged by Luke 19:1-10.
A "Wee Little Man"; A Silly Little Man?
Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
And a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.
Made famous by this children's song, the story of Zacchaeus is more about genuine repentance than about diminutive size and tree-climbing skills. "He was a chief tax collector, and he was rich" (Lk. 19:2). This verse reveals a lot between its lines. Tax collectors were hated in Bible times because they were typically crooked, and had gained their wealth by mistreating taxpayers.
Unlike today's expensive and expansive tax codes, Roman tax collectors earned their jobs with the highest bid. When a tax collector position came open, those who vied for the position submitted bids, and the highest bidder was selected because he would gather the most money for the Roman government. That high bid also became a contract price that the winning bidder had to meet.
Unhindered by codes and laws, Roman tax collectors could charge any amount they could collect by force, and the Roman army provided the force. Once they met their contract amount, all of the extorted overage was theirs. So even more than today's IRS agents, or even "Revenuers" in the hills of Tennessee, Bible-times tax collectors were hated (see Lk. 19:7). It was common knowledge that they were cheats.
This historical background of enrichment by hook or crook illuminates Luke 19:1-10. After climbing a tree to see Jesus, and being called down from the tree, Zacchaeus was reduced to repentance in the presence of Jesus.
What did he do (as opposed to how did he feel)?
And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house " (Lk. 19:8-10).
"Silly Man!" say the advocates of hyper-grace. Sweeping through contemporary Christian thought, hyper-grace is the religious teaching that grace trumps all other Christian teachings. Even repentance is trumped by hyper-grace, since hyper-grace teaches that repentance is nothing more than a brief heart-felt flutter before grace sweeps, and continues to sweep, every sin away. According to hyper-grace spokesmen, "We have no need of repentance, or of confession; there is no need for identifying sin or rectifying sin."
Jesus did not think of Zacchaeus' reaction as silly. Jesus did not correct Zacchaeus. Jesus did not prevent Zacchaeus from doing the following.
Not Silly At All
Instead of being silly, Zacchaeus should be seen as a perfect model for active, regenerative repentance. What did he do (as opposed to how did he feel)?
- Zacchaeus was floored by consciousness of sins, but his response did not stop there.
- Zacchaeus recognized that a proper response to Jesus necessarily included a life changed by moral and religious responsibility - "the half of my goods I give to the poor."
- Zacchaeus recognized that repentance included making straight what evil ways had made crooked - "if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold."
Hardly passing emotions, #2 and #3 required much of Zacchaeus. No one doubts that emotions of guilt and remorse form the foundation of repentance. No one should doubt that we must build changed lives and responsible restitution on that foundation for our building of repentance to be whole.
You Really Ought To Know About
The Christological Controversies
Christianity was not born into a Christian world. Students educated in generations of Sunday Schools did not greet the spread of Christianity. Instead, especially in lands previously influenced by Greek culture, the Gospel spread into minds that had been dominated by secular philosophy.
Philosophically-educated minds did not comfortably accommodate the Christian Jesus. As Paul explained, "The Greeks search(ed) for wisdom," and found "foolishness" in the preaching of Christ (I Cor. 1: 22-23). Why? Their secular logic just could not accept that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1:14).
Still, Christianity spread broadly - but shallowly. As the Gospel spread out of caves and into cathedrals, eventually becoming the state religion of Rome, many converts were essentially unconverted "in the spirit of (their) minds" (Eph. 4:23). They truly liked the idea of forgiveness, but the foundational truths wrankled them, and even contradicted their secular rationality. Finding a happy place for grace, they found no place in their thinking for Christ as 100% God and also as 100% man.
Creativity followed - someone has said that creativity is the mother of apostasy. Rejecting the Jesus of 100% divinity and 100% humanity, they recreated Jesus into forms that suited their rationality. This led to the Christological Controversies (Christology is the study of the nature and person of Jesus).
The Christological Controversies
From the second century onwards, shortly after the age of the Apostles, controversy raged within Christianity for several hundred years about how the human and the divine combined within Jesus. These were known as the Christological Controversies. The competing views argued across the spectrum from (i) Christ was entirely human and not divine at all, to (ii) Christ was entirely divine and not human at all. Somewhere in between was the orthodox view that Christ was entirely unique and that Christ entirely upended rationality by possessing two 100%s.
Here is a brief summary of the positions that were taken, and of some of the position takers (ignore the big words - I certainly so - and focus on the easily understandable summaries).
- The denial of Christ's Divinity - which lead to the heresies known as Ebonism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Socinianism, Liberalism, Humanism, Unitarianism.
- The denial of Christ's dual natures - which created heretical beliefs such as Monophysitism, Eutychianism, Monothelitism. These all confuse the two natures of Christ; i.e., absorbed one of His natures into the other.
- The denial of Christ's humanity - which gave rise to Docetism, Marcionism, Gnosticism, Apollinarianism, Monarchianism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Adoptionism, Dynamic Monarchianism.
The Controversies Settled - Temporarily
Tamping down the Christological Controversies became a full-time job. Four major "Church Councils" addressed the issue. At Nicea (325 A.D.), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431) and at Chalcedon (451), great gatherings of Christian leaders hammered at religious errors and hammered-out the conclusion that has since dominated. The conclusion was that Jesus, in one person, possessed "the whole fullness of deity" (Col. 2:9), and was also "made like His brothers in every way" (Heb. 2:17). The summary, 100% God and 100% man, is apt.
The Controversies Revived
With the secular and purely rational again in ascendance, the importance of an orthodox understanding of the nature of Christ is again important. Rejecting the divine in Jesus, the modern secular mind has reformed (and demoted) Christ into a great but fallible religious leader who ranks high on the intelligence and goodness scales, but who is still just a man. The Liberal/Progressive Jesus lived (possibly), performed miracles (maybe), was resurrected (unlikely), and has left a record of himself (debatably). A possible, maybe, unlikely, and debatable Jesus allows for lots of wiggle room. The orthodox Jesus does not.
"Are Conservative Christians Religious Extremists?"
Prepare For Further Christian Marginalization, And For Further Bail-Outs
The Atlantic magazine does not have much influence along the Texas Gulf Coast. With a far-Left editorial policy, and with a target readership of "serious readers and thought leaders" (ahem), The Atlantic is far more at home along the Red-State coasts of the Northeast and California. Why would a church bulletin give any attention to The Atlantic? In a recent article, The Atlantic presented a rationale for the further marginalization of Christians.
Christianity has been and continues to be under attack. John said, "Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you" (I Jn. 3:13). Jesus explained why: "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (Jn. 15:18). Any respite of relative popularity enjoyed by Christianity in the latter half of the 20th century is fast disappearing. We are rapidly realizing again that "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (II Tim. 3:12).
Although the ultimate steps in Christian persecution are life- and career-threatening, the lead-up steps are less dramatic. Instead of being thrown to the lions, Christians will be thrown out of the mainstream. This is marginalization, "The process whereby a group is pushed to the edge, accorded lesser importance, and ultimately excluded."
Marginalizing a previously popular group, like Christians, is not an easy thing to do. As a character in the movie Gladiator said to Maximus, “You have a great name. They must kill your name before they can kill you.” In order to marginalize Christians and Christianity, "they" must kill-off our good name by constantly criticizing us and pushing us off the edge of society's approval.
"Are Conservative Christians Religious Extremists?"
Here is where The Atlantic and its attempts to shape thought comes in. In the March 10, 2016 edition, The Atlantic asked, "Are Conservative Christians Religious Extremists?" Borrowing from previous studies entitled The Fundamentals Of Extremism: The Christian Right In America (Blaker, 2003) and Good faith: Being A Christian When Society Thinks You Are Irrelevant And Extreme (2016, Kinnaman and Lyons), The Atlantic cleverly concludes that "Christian's beliefs and practices are so far outside of the norm that they deserve one of society's ugliest epithets: extremist."
- "Most Americans consider the beliefs and practices of traditionalist Christians to be extreme."
- "Conservative Christians share striking similarities with Taliban terrorists." (Give this some thought. The Atlantic is asserting that Willo Dean, Phillip Cottle, and Jo Ella, the heroes of last week's bulletin, are no different than Taliban terrorists. How credible is that?)
- "Traditionalist Christians seek to indoctrinate youth with oppressive views of women, minorities, and LGBT persons through mind-control tactics and intimidation."
- "Because Americans think that many Christian beliefs are extreme, it makes sense to apply the same label to anyone looking to spread those beliefs."
- "Americans also believe even more mundane but common beliefs are extreme. [For example] if your teenage daughter commits to abstain from sex until marriage...she's an extremist too."
Christians will respond to this, and to other attempts at marginalization, in one of two ways. First, feeling the pressure to either conform to society's expectations, or to at least be quiet, many Christians will disregard the attempts. They recognize that "We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22), even the "hardship" of being outside of society's mainstream. They will even "rejoice insofar as [they] share Christ’s sufferings, that [they] may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed" (I Pet. 4:13).
Second, others will be horrified at the thought of not being accepted, of not being popular, or of not being approved. Fearing marginalization, feeding off of social approval, and fearing worst of all any description as extremists, they will adjust their belief and practice to a comfy place in the bosom of contemporary culture's approval. Recognize that The Atlantic attacked Conservative, Traditionalist, and Evangelical Christians. The Liberals and Progressives were left alone.