Spirituality Information

The Cuddlies

I finally went to the dentist today. I had been putting it off for a long time. Most of us are like that. When we know that something is going to be painful, we refuse to act until a stronger pain forces us to act. Unfortunately, that is the case with spiritual things as well. Much that God asks us to do goes against all of our natural instincts, and so we put off doing them.

When it comes to human relationships, we all have illusions about an idyllic relationship where everything is soft and warm and cuddly. We remember some soft warm cuddlies from our infancy, and we keep trying to get back to them, whether it is with our parents, our spouses, our lovers, or our dearest friends. And certainly there are some good times in all of these relationships. But it seems like God has something against them, because at the same time that he asks us to love our enemies, he calls on us to "hate" those who are closest to us... to forego the cuddlies that those relationships represent. Why is that?

The story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son - the son whom God himself had promised to Abraham - is so shocking that most Christians would rather not even think about it. God had condemned pagan religions for teaching people to literally sacrifice their children to false gods, and yet he himself was asking Abraham to do much the same thing. I believe that what God was really aiming at was not the destruction of Isaac, but rather a severing of the false illusions that Abraham must have had about Isaac.

Sometimes we must be cruel to be kind (to ourselves as well as to others), and while there is an emotional dependency on anyone, you cannot really love that person. Instead, you will smother the person, in an effort to satisfy your own need for soft warm cuddlies in return.

What most people mistake for love is just a selfish need to be loved. When they cease to get what they want out of such a relationship, they often dump the other person or turn on them in anger. But mature love doesn't work like that. Mature love gives without demanding cuddlies in return.

It is difficult to consciously choose to forego the cuddlies. But God often engineers things so that sooner or later the cuddlies will disappear of their own accord. At one time or another, our loved ones will disappoint us and hurt us. And when that happens is when we find out what our so-called love is made of. Do we remain faithful, or do we leave?

Those whom we love most we also have the most power to hurt. And they have the same power to hurt us. When some have been hurt, they have fallen away, whether it be from a marriage, or from some other lesser fellowship, suggesting that they may have been in the relationship more for the cuddlies... for what they could get out of it. Others have stayed faithful, and because of it, they have grown into a deeper relationship with those whom they loved.

As a leader, I would love to be popular, to be a "nice guy". But I rarely have the opportunity to do that. Some of my gruffness is a result of impatience and ignorance, I know. I am sorry about that. But at least a bit of my gruffness (and the gruffness of almost any human leader) may come as the result of attempts to be good leaders, accountable to a higher Authority that you. As a Christian leader, I believe that I have a responsibility to wield the sword of truth with unflinching accuracy, often letting the chips fall where they lie. In order to speak the truth, I am forced to leave most of the cuddlies for someone else to enjoy. Most of my cuddlies, and the cuddlies of those who follow me, must come from Jesus himself. Surely this is true of other leaders as well.

I could well imagine that some of the strongest individuals in the fellowship that I lead are people who don't particularly like me. They just "endure" me because they have a higher reason for being here.

Look at Jesus himself, the perfect leader. His closest followers were asked if they would leave him when so many others were turning away, and the best that Peter could say was, "To whom would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life." In other words, if Peter had been given another option, he probably would have taken it.

Peter wasn't saying, "Oh, we definitely agree with what you have just said, and we're behind you all the way. See, Jesus had just said some things that seemed totally off the wall (i.e. about eating his flesh and drinking his blood). But he had said so many other things that made perfect sense, that Peter just had to take the bad (or that which appeared to be bad at the time) along with the good, or else choose to fall away from God altogether by leaving Jesus.

With any human leader, you get even more bad with the good! However, if every one of our personal relationships broke down and not a one of us could stop from being repulsed by all the others in our community, the truth would still be the truth, and we would still need to stay together because of our love for the truth, if for no other reason. And if God could build an army of people with such pure motives, don't you think he would actually choose to destroy our interpersonal relationships in order to do it?

So let us each learn to hold lightly to the cuddlies and grasp strongly for the truth. In doing that we may find the eternal cuddly from the One who alone can satisfy for eternity.

Dave McKay, and his wife Cherry, are co-founders of a string of Christian communities. You can read more of his articles on the community's website: http://www.jesuschristians.com


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