Most Christians have heard of the term "agape" love, which means loving unconditionally. We are to love others as we love ourselves; husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. We are told to accept others as they are, and to exercise tolerance, patience, gentleness, forebearance, and kindness.
Yet, with all of this teaching on love, there is an imbalance that raises several crucial thoughts. I think we could all agree that a big part of loving people is exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit, like those mentioned above, and simply being "nice" to others. I mean, no one wants to come across as mean, hard, callous, uncaring and unforgiving. But does being nice always mean accepting a situation or showing tolerance, no matter what? Does it mean going along just to get along with someone else? Does it mean being a people pleaser?
If the answer to these question is in the affirmative it poses serious problems. Unconditional love must be balanced with four "conditions."
First of all, to what degree can a person show unconditional love in the case of physical or emotional abuse? Or should there be in a case like this?
Second, a person must have emotional, moral, and spiritual boundaries, as well as boundaries for personal health and safety. Not allowing a person to violate your personal boundaries does not always come across as being loving.
Third, we must not always be rescuers-always bailing someone out or coming to his or her beckoning call.
Fourth, Christians must understand the difference between being loving and being used. Loving is giving to others simply because you want to. Allowing yourself to be used is giving to others because they expect you to. If you tell a person "No", he or she may not consider you a nice person.
When loving others is taught, not balanced with the above conditions, serious harm can come to a person's emotional and spiritual maturity. Let's not come across so spiritually minded that we are not practical and prudent.
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