When it comes to love, people have a lot of expectations. Some of those are reasonable, good, and necessary. But, sometimes these relationships are unhealthy, unbalanced and even abusive.
The Bible has a lot to say about love in all avenues of our lives.
Love between neighbors:
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18aThe Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.
Love for God:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.
Love for your enemies:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.
Love between husband and wife:
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church–for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:25-33The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.
Love between parents and children:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:1-4The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.
What happens though, when the relationship isn’t healthy? What happens when the relationship is abusive? And there’s a whole lot of ways a relationship can be abusive.
A relationship between a church member and a church can be abusive if scripture is twisted and used as a means of control or to excuse sin. We tend to think of this relationship as between a cult and their members but I’ve known of it to occur in churches where leadership is uneducated, where tradition is taught more than scripture.
Relationships between husband and wife can definitely be abusive. The ways are many: physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, psychological, financial, and spiritual. These relationships do so much damage to the partner being abused. It can be either way, husband to wife or wife to husband.
Children can certainly be abused by a parent, older sibling, cousin, aunt or uncle, or another adult, such as a live-in partner. A child who grows up in an abusive home is likely to be an abuser or to accept abusive behavior toward them because it’s all they’ve ever known.
When abuse happens, when someone is swallowing their emotions, their words to avoid making the abuse worse at some point an explosion occurs, scores must be settled. Healing can and will take place if you are able to forgive.
Especially when you get yourself out of the abusive relationship and are working on moving on from it. The Bible is also clear about forgiveness.
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22
“So watch yourselves. ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:3-4The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.
God’s Word is clear in His expectation we forgive those who hurt us. What that looks like, how that happens isn’t quite so clear a picture so I speak from experience.
My father was physically, emotionally, financially, and even spiritually abusive to us. There were times he struck our mother, many, many times he was physically abusive to two of his three children. He was emotionally unavailable to us usually except for the youngest child. That turned out to be abusive too.
The church we attended in my teenage years was spiritually abusive in that tradition was taught, scripture twisted to make their point. For example that women should not wear pants inside the church building. The first time I did after I left home for college I got nothing out of the service because I was afraid God was going to strike me with lightening during the service. It was a physical relief when I walked outside after service in one piece.
One summer between the first and second grade I was molested by a family member staying with us to help my mother with a sick child by caring for us older two. My parents were so angry with me.
As a young adult trying to make it on my own far away from home on February 9 I was raped in my apartment.
There have been a couple romantic relationships that were emotionally abusive.
Sadly, even a relationship with a family member became emotionally abusive as we moved into adulthood.
Each of these relationships have had an event that set me on the road to forgiveness for the abuser and myself. Sometimes, I can reach that point easier than others. But, each time I have forgiven, without giving that person the power to hurt me again.
There have been some relationships, some abuse that lasted longer in my life and I’ve forgiven, reforgiven and repeated the act, the prayer, the release multiple times, sometimes daily. But, I keep on doing it because God tells me He expects me to forgive for He has forgiven me.
When God forgives me He forgives the sin but He doesn’t remove the consequences of my sin. I had opportunities in life that I failed to take advantage of because my self-esteem was beaten down so low. God would have helped me had I been willing to try, but I was still convinced I was meant for the back row, not the front.
I encourage you to turn to God for help forgiving those who have hurt you. Live your life where God wants you. Forgive, forgive and repeat until the need lessens. Don’t expect the other party to ask for forgiveness, or to even acknowledge the pain they’ve caused.
Forgive because God expects you to.
Forgive because God loves you.
Forgive because God forgives you.
Forgive because it will keep you from carrying the burden of unforgiveness one moment longer.