If you really loved me...

by Daniel Rieke

If you really loved me...

...you wouldn’t be confronting my behavior.

...you would accept me for me.

...you wouldn't ask me to change.

...you wouldn’t be trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do.

...you would want me to be happy.

If you’ve ever attempted to lovingly confront a brother or sister in a particular behavior pattern that was either sinful or headed towards being sinful, then you may have heard something like one of the responses above: “if you really loved me…”

Our hyper-individualistic western culture has so completely redefined love that it hardly resembles the love spoken of in the Word of God. Far from the poetic beauty described in 1 Corinthians 13, “love” in our culture means something more like unconditional affirmation of anything I do, no matter what. And the idea of calling into question my behavior that isn’t in step with Scripture and asking me to change certainly isn’t considered "love."

It may be labeled legalism. Or self-righteousness. Or adding to the gospel. Or speck-finding-when-we-need-to-be-getting-the-log-from-our-own-eye. But certainly not love.

Those labels may in fact be accurate in some instances of confrontation. However, I think more often, western Christians have drifted into a similar worldview as the Corinthian church, who Paul had to rebuke for their misguided conception of love and discipline:

[1] It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. [2] And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. [3] For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. [4] When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, [5] you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. [6] Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? [7] Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. [8] Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. [9] I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—[10] not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. [11] But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? [13] God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 [1]

There is much we could dissect in this passage. But the question I want to think about for the purpose of this blog is: How could it be loving for Paul to encourage the Corinthian church to purge the evil man from among them?

It certainly doesn’t sound like a loving thing to do. Not in our culture.

Much like us in the West, the Corinthians had a skewed view of love. Rather than lovingly and graciously calling the man sleeping with his father’s wife to repent and turn from his sin, they celebrated the fact that they were allowing the man to go unconfronted in his behavior. They, like so many in our culture, seemed to view unconditional affirmation as the hallmark of love, and any questioning of one’s behavior, as the opposite.

That is not how God views love. Nor is it how God views discipline.

God disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12). Like a good parent, He disciplines His children because in doing so, He protects us from the deceitfulness and deadliness of sin and also from living in a way that fails to give Him the glory He deserves from our lives. The book of Proverbs even goes so far as to state that to neglect discipline of our children shows not that we love them, but that we hate them (Prov. 13:24).

So according to Scripture, one clear way we are to show love to each other is to hold each other accountable to live in a way that gives glory to God. In other words, one way we are called to show love is to discipline each other.

The concept of love being linked to discipline flies in the face of our modern sensibilities.

As those who submit to Scripture as our final and ultimate authority, may we be a counter-cultural people who love our brothers and sisters in Christ enough to call out sin for their sake and for the glory of God!

May we be a people who humbly approach our fellow church members, in a spirit of gentleness (Gal. 6:1), refusing to buy into our culture’s lie that gentle, grace-filled confrontation of sin isn’t a loving thing to do.

May we be a people who love biblically! May we be a people who love like Jesus loves!



For more reading on this concept, check out the book, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love by Jonathan Leeman.


[1] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.