Cruel to be Kind
Mardi Gras
13 February 2018
"You have to be cruel to be kind," was the pop lyric of some decades ago. I don't recall who sang these words, and probably don't want to remember. Yet, they are surprisingly true. Love often requires us to be hard on those whom we love. A child who is never disciplined will never be able to take his place in society as a productive member, because he will never have been schooled in those habits that will enable him to be of service to family, church, and community. Speaking from some experience, it is never easy to discipline children in a way that is truly loving, especially if the child perceives the discipline to be too harsh. I found it quite heart-rending to chastise my children, when they needed it.
I remember reading a letter of C. F. W. Walther (d. 1887), the first president of the church body in which I am a pastor, recounting how Pastor Walther had had the burden of rebuking a brother pastor for some false teaching that he had proclaimed. He wrote of setting his face as hard as flint to do his duty for the sake of the truth of the gospel and the good of the little sheep of the church. He lamented how hard it was to rebuke a beloved brother in the ministry. After the meeting was over Walther strode to the next room, and after closing the door, wept in anguish over having to set his face against his beloved brother. And while Pastor Walther had done the right thing and the man repented of his false teaching, Walther was not so hardhearted to be untouched by this difficult service to the gospel of Christ. He was wrung out by his love for the man whom he had rebuked. He wept in anguish about this flinty love.
Paul the apostle faced the same kind of suffering when he rebuked the Corinthians. He recounted his anguish, which must have been great, in 2 Corinthians 2:4. Every faithful pastor feels this gut wrenching suffering when he rebukes sin and vice in the members of his parish. He has no desire to offend or hurt his fellow believers for they are his very own self. The body of Christ is so fully integrated under the one Head that it shares all joys and sorrows together. If our pastors are in any way co-bishops with Christ the bishop of all souls, then they also feel this most acutely, for the head is most involved in feeling pain. Any pastor who inflicts pain on his parish for the jollies is no different than a child abuser. A man who hurts a child without suffering himself is a monster. No, our pastors feel the suffering of their members like a father, who watching a son being wheeled into emergency surgery, yearns to take his place. He would suffer in his place, but will suffer great anguish for the sake of the great love he has for the boy as he watches the suffering of his child. But sometimes you just have to be cruel to be kind.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"'For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you' (2Co 2:4). Whose spirit is more tenderly full of affection than Paul's? He shows himself to have been no less in pain than those who had sinned, but even much more. For he said not 'out of affliction' only, but 'out of much affliction,' nor 'with tears,' but 'with many tears' and 'anguish of heart,' that is, 'I was suffocated, I was choked with discouragement; and when I could no longer endure the cloud of despondence, I wrote unto you, not that you should be grieved, but that ye might know the love, which I have more abundantly toward you.' And yet what naturally followed was to say, not that you might be grieved, but that ye might be corrected. For indeed he wrote to them with this purpose. This however he did not say, but he puts this for it (more to sweeten his words, and win them to a greater affection), showing that he does everything from love.

"And he said not simply 'the love,' but 'the abundant love that I have for you.' For by this he desires to win them over, by showing that he loves them more than all and feels towards them as to chosen disciples. Therefore, he said, 'If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you' (1Co 9:2) and, 'Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers' (1Co 4:15), and again, 'we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.' (2Co 1:12) and farther on, 'If I love you more, am I to be loved less?'(2Co 12:15); and here 'the abundant love that I have for you.' It was as though Paul were saying, 'If my words were full of anger, yet the anger came out of much love and sadness. While writing the Epistle, I suffered, I was pained, not only because you had sinned, but also because I was compelled to make you sorry. I did this out of love. Just as a father whose legitimate son is afflicted with gangrene, is compelled to use the knife and cauterize the wound, is pained on both accounts, that he is diseased and that he is compelled to use the knife on him. So that what you consider a sign of hating you, was indeed a sign of much love. And if to have made you sorry was out of love, much more my gladness at that sorrow.'" 

 John Chrysostom, Homilies on 2 Corinthians, 4.3
Psalm 36

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil. Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise. (ESV)
Lord Christ, You have loved the world unto death. Grant that we too might offer ourselves into anguish, suffering, and death for the sake of the Church. Free us from the foolishness that avoids all sorrow, but show us by Your Holy Spirit that we are most loving when we in a loving way admonish sin and misbelief. Amen.
For all those who suffer from drug addiction, that the Lord Christ would be their strength and their shield
For all church leaders who are bearing the burdens of their office with love and compassion toward those whom they serve, that they would not become weary in doing God's work
For all those who will begin the Lenten disciplines tomorrow, that they would repent and receive the declaration of divine mercy in the person of Christ
Art: RAFFAELLO Sanzio  The Transfiguration (1518-20)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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