Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labour pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. I wish I were with you right now so I could change my tone. But at this distance I don’t know how else to help you. (NLT)
If we want to avoid pain we have to avoid love. Whenever we choose to love someone we risk our hearts breaking. Those we love are incurably imperfect, as are we. And so as love draws us closer to them, their capacity to hurt us increases. The hurt may well not be intentional but is just as real.
It seems Paul felt like this as he wrote to the Christians scattered in the area of Galatia. They were being led astray by distorted teaching and were causing Paul no end of concern. His love for them meant he couldn’t wash his hands of them or just leave them at the mercy of those who would harm them.
This same love caused him to write to them with some severity. His stern words to them were not a mark of hatred but of love. Love will sometimes have us speak uncomfortable and unwelcome words to those we love. To love is not always to be nice.
Any of us who long to see those we love grow to greater maturity in Jesus will feel such pain. Christian growth is a slow process and during that process relationships come under strain as imperfections and waywardness come to the surface. Love does not always come easily. Love is not always welcomed or reciprocated. At such times we unburden our concerns to God. He knows all about the pain of love.
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