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“LOVE LETS IT GO”: 40 Days of Love #4

(adapted with permission from Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, originally Oct.4-5, 2008)

Oct. 15, 2017 1Cor.13:4-7

We’re continuing our “40 Days of Love” – we’re working on everybody getting a master’s degree in love, so that you know how to handle relationships and make them meaningful.Life is all about learning to love. One of the ways that God builds your love is he tests it by putting you around people who aren’t always very lovable! Today we’ll look at special cases we might call “VDP” – Very Draining People. There are Difficult people; Demanding people; Disappointing people; and Destructive people. You will have all four of these special cases in your life throughout your life. God wants us to learn to love these people in the way that’s best for them.

     First: Difficult people – those who are just hard to work with, hard to get along with. Unpleasable, cranky, irresponsible, immature; some have personality defects. Perhaps they’re just not all there, or are lacking in social skills. Some are rude or obnoxious. These are “Difficult” people.

     Second sort of VDP’s are Demanding people. They have an agenda; they’re aggressive and pushy. Whenever you’re around a demanding person you feel a little bit manipulated: they want it their way and it’s got to be right and they tend to be insistent, stubborn. They may think they’re always right. They may expect perfection from you. They can be very self-centered because they’re not thinking about anybody else. They can be demeaning, arrogant. “It’s my way or the highway.” Demanding people are pushy people.

     Third, we have Disappointing people. These people may not mean to hurt you – sometimes they’re actually well intentioned; but they disappoint you, they let you down. They break promises or fail you in some way. Perhaps they prove unfaithful to you, disloyal. You’re going to have disappointing people in your life and God wants you to learn to love them the way that He wants you to.

     Fourth, and most difficult, are the Destructive people. These people want to harm you, and it’s intentional. There is evil in the world and there are hateful people, individuals who are double dealing, deceitful, disingenuous, dangerous, debilitating, even deadly. Destructive people hurt you, harm you, wound you - often without caring.

     How do you respond in love to each of these groups of people?

     1Corinthians 13:5 tells us the four ways that love deals with these four types of people. It says “Love is not rude.Love does not demand its own way.Love is not irritable, and love keeps no record of when it has been wronged.” When you understand these four and you begin to build them into your life you graduate from the Bachelor’s degree level of love to the Master’s degree level of love.

     The first type of VDP – Very Draining People – that you’re going to have to learn to deal with in life, and learn to love, are Difficult people. They may really bug you because of their rudeness. How do you respond in love to difficult people?

     The Bible says “Love is not rude.” So I must be tactful, not just truthful. Love is tactful. In other words you don’t return their rudeness. You overcome evil with good. You don’t respond in kind. When people are difficult, don’t be difficult back.

     One way to be tactful is simply by listening to them first. They may have a point. If you listen to people sympathetically and then you respond tactfully, that’s the loving response to a difficult person. You listen lovingly then you respond lovingly. A principal form rudeness takes in society today is interrupting people – not waiting for them to finish what they’re saying. I know I’m guilty of this sometimes; are you? Our brain runs on ahead and we think we know what people are going to say and we short-circuit the conversation by interrupting. Akin to cutting someone off in traffic – that’s rude. Proverbs 18:13 says, “Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” Tact is listening. Love listens first and then responds tactfully not just truthfully – without interrupting. People with tact have less to retract. Eph.4:31f says, “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at each other.Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude...” Circle “ever be rude” love listens and love is tactful. Eric Hoffer said, “Rudeness is a weak man’s imitation of strength.”

     Sometimes frankness is actually rudeness masquerading in the guise of truth. Ask, “Why am I saying it this way? Am I saying it so that I can let off steam – make myself feel better – or am I saying it for the benefit of the other person? Proverbs 16:21 “A wise, mature person is known for his understanding. The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is.” Circle “pleasant” and circle “persuasive” and draw a line between them. The more pleasant you are, the more persuasive you are. You’re never persuasive when you’re abrasive! Ever get your back up when someone’s nagging you? That’s the effect abrasiveness has – makes you defensive. You don’t get your point across by being cross.

     Tact and tone go together. It matters a lot the way you say it. You can say something very difficult but if you say it in the right tone it will be received much better. Speak it in a loving tone.

     For a master’s degree in love, remember love is not rude: you’re tactful not just truthful. When someone’s rude to you, you don’t retaliate. When you get even with somebody it puts you on the same level with them. But when you return good for evil it puts you above them. Do you want to be below them? Attack them. Do you want to be even with them? Get even with them. (But neither of those approaches is loving!) Do you want to be above them, operate on a higher plane? Say something nice back. Love is tactful not just truthful.

     The second kind of group you’re going to have to deal with is Demanding people. These are the people who always want their way. They’ve got a right way and a wrong way to do it – and your way is always the wrong way. You can never quite please them. If you don’t meet their standards they’re going to let you know about it. How do you respond in love to demanding people?

     The Bible says in 1Cor.13:5, “Love does not demand its own way” so I must be understanding, not demanding. Jesus is the best example of this. Philippians 2:5ff, “Your attitude should be the same that Jesus Christ had.Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God.He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.” He was God but he was understanding, not demanding. Circle “did not demand and cling to his rights.”

     Anytime you hear somebody saying, “I have my rights!” they’re being demanding not understanding. One of the greatest tests of your character is how you treat the people who serve you. The waitresses, people at fast food places, the person who delivers your mail..How do you treat the people who help you out? Do you even notice them? Do you know their names? It’s treating people with respect and helps you be more understanding, not demanding.

     Practice being understanding not demanding. You know the best place to practice it? How about home? Sometimes we’re more polite to strangers than we are to the people in our lives. Sometimes we say the meanest things to the people we love the most. How backwards is that?!

     Titus 3:2 “Believers shouldn’t curse anyone or be quarrelsome, but they should be gentle and show courtesy to everyone.” Courtesy is showing love in little things. A lot of marriages die from a lack of courtesy. Because the things that you used to do for each other you don’t do any more. Some of us need to go back and treat our spouse as if we were “dating” again, rather than take them for granted. The little niceties, the thoughtful things, the notes, the cards, the flowers, the calls, the courtesies – opening the door, the let-me-get-that-for-you... And stop the sniping. A lot of marriages are buried from a lot of little digs. We get so familiar we start to skip courtesy.

     To become more courteous to people, more understanding, consider three B’s – their background, their battles and their burdens. Before you’re tempted to get sharp and short with someone, stop and ask yourself: do I know their background? Do I know the battles they’re going through right now? Do I know the burdens they’re carrying? If we considered those 3 B’s, we’d BE a lot more courteous to other people. Maybe they were raised in a family where they had no model of kindness, there was no example of courtesy. Maybe their burden is they’re feeling sick, running a temperature, had a bad night, they’re suffering from a back problem. Love is understanding not demanding.

     Jesus in Luke 6:31 gives us the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Put yourself in their shoes: how would YOU like to be treated if you were them? “As you would have them do to you” helps you be more loving, more understanding, not demanding.

     There’s a third group have to deal with: Disappointing people. Your friends are going to disappoint you, your family, your parents, your brothers and sisters – sooner or later, they’re all going to disappoint you. Nobody’s perfect!

     So how do you deal in a loving manner with disappointing people? 1Cor.13:5 says, “Love is not irritable.” So I must be gentle not judgmental. Galatians 6:1 says “Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again.But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin too.”

     A key word is “gently”. Confront people you love, when you see they’re doing something they shouldn’t be doing, gently, not harshly, not in a rude or mean way, but with gentleness and respect. Here’s a little equation for you: Right + Rude = Wrong. It doesn’t matter if you’re right: if you’re rude about it, nobody’s going to care what you have to say – they’re immediately going to get defensive. So offer correction in a gentle and loving way, not harshly or cruelly.

     Romans 14:12 says, “Each of us will give an account of himself to God.Therefore, let’s stop passing judgment on each other.” Use your judgment, definitely, but unless that person is in a clear accountability relationship with you, unless you obviously are in some sort of authority role, they are primarily accountable to God, not to you: so hold off on passing judgment.

     Proverbs 15:4, “Gentle words bring life and health.A deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Or as the Message paraphrase puts it: “Kind words heal and help.But cutting words wound and maim.” When your kids mess up, you don’t have to get on their case and tell them whatever you think they are at the moment: instead, give them a vision of how things could be; speak words of life and health and hope into them, with gentleness, rather than words of judgment and harshness.

     It’s the same way in our marriages. How many marriage problems could be strengthened if we had just waited a beat, just used words that were gentle and kind and not harsh or vindictive. There are really so few things that are worth fighting about. Even the things that we think are worth fighting about, most of them aren’t worth fighting about either. They’re just temporal. They’re going to pass. We ought to learn to cut each other some slack and be kind and gentle in our relationships.

     Perhaps you’re having some problems at work with your boss. Ecclesiastes 10:4 “If your boss is angry with you, don’t quit.A quiet spirit can overcome even great mistakes.” If you mess up at work just admit it: don’t blame it on somebody else, or get all defensive and start yelling back. Just do your job; do it well for the glory of God because you’re much more likely to find mercy if you’re humble about it than if you’re grumpy about it.

     Now, where have we been so far? Love isn’t (1) rude and it’s not (2) demanding and it’s not (3) judgmental.

     The fourth aspect has to do with dealing with Destructive people. How do you love people who intentionally hurt you? Who are mean, hateful, manipulative. When people hurt us we have two natural tendencies: Remember it and retaliate. We remember it, store it back in the database and say, I’m never forgetting that one, never letting them off the hook. And we retaliate – we want to get even. But what does the Bible tell us? 1Cor.13:5 “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” How do I respond to the people who have hurt me in my life? All those wounds, pains, hurts I’ve stockpiled back there in my memory? You don’t repeat it, you delete it. “NO RECORD.” Wipe it out of the memory bank. Let it go. Forgive it and get on with your life.

     Resentment is self-destructive, it is emotional suicide, it’s psychological acid reflux. It will destroy you, eat you up. When you hold on to a grudge / a hurt / a bitterness, you are not hurting that person from your past: you’re only hurting yourself. Actually you are allowing them to continue to hurt you in the present. Your past can only keep hurting you if you choose to allow it – by remembering it over and over. Resentment only perpetuates the pain: it’s not healing, but hurting. Fighting and gossiping are other unhelpful approaches. Don’t REPEAT it: DELETE it. “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

     One guy said, “Whenever I get in an argument with my wife she gets historical.” His friend said, “You mean hysterical?” “No,” said the first guy, “Historical – she tells me everything I’ve ever done wrong.” We laugh at that but the truth is, bringing up the past won’t help your marriage; “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

     Jesus commanded in Mk.11:25, “Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop.Leave it.Let it go.In order that your Father who is in heaven may also forgive you your own failings and shortcomings and let them drop.” Perhaps you’ve carried a hurt for years and years, even decades. It’s not too late to just let it go.

     One grandmother at Saddleback, married over 40 years, whose husband’s drug & alcohol addiction tore their family apart before they came to Christ gets asked, “How were you able to forgive 28 years of shame, grief and pain?” She replies: “It is easy to forgive when you remember what it cost Jesus Christ so that I can be forgiven. He sacrificed his life for me... Being a part of our [Saddleback] Church family and being in a small group has overwhelmed me with love and supported me through all kinds of difficulties. Can God bring good out of bad? Can God bring healing to the hurts of betrayal and unfaithfulness and alcoholism and shame and bitterness and hopeless broken relationships? Yes.Absolutely yes.But you must do your part. You must accept Christ’s love and forgiveness for yourself so you will have the power to offer forgiveness to others. I have chosen to no longer live in the past but look to the future... Forgiveness is not forgetting: forgiveness is letting it go...What works is turning it all over to Jesus and following the steps he has laid out in his word.”

     Proverbs 10:12 says, “Hate stirs up trouble but love forgives all offenses.” Which of the “all” have you not let go? Which of the offenses in your life are you still holding on to?

     Maybe as a child you were hurt by an adult – a teacher, an uncle, maybe even your parents... The Bible says that there will be severe judgment for sin: one day God is going to settle the score on that. How does God expect me to love the destructive people who’ve hurt me? You’ve got to deal with the anger. You’ve got to face it so you can forgive it. Stop blaming.

     Proverbs 19:11, “When someone wrongs you it is a great virtue to ignore it.” Ignore it: let it go. But you can’t ignore it until first you face it and forgive it. Then you can ignore it. And you let it go. Love lets it go.

     Jesus commanded His followers to be baptized. Baptism is a symbol of letting go; a symbol of saying, “I’m letting go of all my old ways, all my old hurts, all my old pains, all my old sins. I’m accepting the forgiveness of God and I’m offering it to other people. It’s a new life. It’s a fresh start. I’m letting go of all the people who’ve hurt me so I can get on with my life.”

     Job 18:4 maintains, “You are only hurting yourself with your anger.” WHO are you hurting? Yourself! As someone put it, “Bitterness is the poison we drink hoping the other person will die.” 1Corinthians 13:5 says by contrast, “Love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.” I don’t know who you need to forgive but I do know today’s the day. As we close, think of the people who’ve hurt you in your life and let them off the hook. Love lets it go. Love forgives. Because they deserve it? No; you don’t deserve being forgiven by God, either! But because the Manufacturer’s Handbook assures us it’s the right thing to do – what we NEED to do – it’s the only way to be free. Let’s pray.