Loyal friends are precious and rare. A few years ago, I was at a coffee-shop having a rough conversation with a loyal friend. This wasn’t our normal conversation of laughter and sarcastic commentary about everything under the sun.We were having a very awkward conversation because he was angry with me, and I was angry with him for even thinking he had good reason to be angry with me. As he spoke I kind-of listened to him. From what little I can remember I think he said something like, “Andy, you are a forceful personality, and I’m tired of it. If a person hangs around you long enough they find out they will have to follow you, your way and at your pace, if they want to stay your friend. You just need to know I’m tired of it!” While he continued to describe his complaints against me, I honestly thought, “I’m done! I want real friends not needy, whiners like this. I want unconditional acceptance, not criticisms about my personality. I’ve invested a lot of time into this guy. I thought we had a real friendship. and this is what I get!? This is just ridiculous – a ridiculous revelation of his immaturity. So, you know what? This friendship probably just isn’t gonna work out. He says he cares about me but c’mon – this is way too much drama for me to stick around.” My friend’s honest confrontation of me made me want to just move on.
My reaction to his criticism was normal, but my conclusions were horribly flawed and immature. I said, “I want unconditional acceptance, not criticism about my personality!” clearly revealing my seriously flawed understanding of the real natural of loyal love. Somehow I’d come to the conclusion that unconditional acceptance was the same thing as unconditional approval. But there is a big difference. Unconditional approval approves of everything a person does even if what they’re doing hurts them and everyone around them. On the other hand, unconditional acceptance is about loving and appreciating the intrinsic worth of a person while not necessarily approving of everything that person does – especially the hurtful things. Obviously acceptance and approval are not the same thing, but because I had stupidly confused the two, I was actually ready to walk away from a loyal friend. Ridiculous!
Now consider this. How often do we do the exact same thing with God? How often do we say to God, ”I agree with your assessment of all the other areas of my life except this one area, and if You don’t approve of this part of my life then you don’t really love me for who I actually am,” or “If you don’t fully approve of this part of my life then you really don’t fully accept me.” We’d like to think unconditional love cannot include rigorous honesty. But the fact is – unconditional love absolutely includes rigorous and even blunt honesty.
In the next few posts I want to explore God’s blunt honesty with the people of Israel found in Hosea 2: 2-13. God loves His people just the way they are, but He loves them so much He will not leave them the way they are. Therefore, He speaks honestly. He makes three legitimate “lover’s-complaints” to His people. Each complaint is followed by a description of the consequences that result from disregarding Him. Stay tuned, and remember – love and honesty go hand in hand.