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You’ve Changed!

December 8th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 12 (NLT)

12 Hatred stirs up quarrels,
      but love makes up for all offenses.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Love stories . . . we’ve all heard them.  Boy meets girl.  Girl likes boy.  Boy meets girl’s daddy.  Girl’s daddy intimidates boy to the point that he lies awake at night trembling in cold sweats.  Hey, since I’m writing this, I can tell this love story any way I like!  In all seriousness, most people are looking for acceptance.  For companionship.  For friendship. Most people are searching for love.

But love is a misunderstood entity.  Society has reduced love down to romance and sexual desire.  Don’t believe me?  Try watching anything from blockbuster movies to billboards without seeing some sort of sexual reference.  Even the trashiest and most ridiculous of reality television shows blur the lines between sex and love.  Hmmm, let’s see. You applied to be on this show and now you’re competing with twenty-five other women for some rich guy’s love . . . and I use the term loosely.  You’ve never met him before this show and your only interaction with him will happen in front of millions of people who are analyzing your every move.  When it comes down to it, if he does choose you it will be played up as a very difficult decision between you and at least one other girl who also wants to “fall in love” with Mr. Right.

Yeah, these conditions aren’t exactly ideal for finding “true love.”

Most people view true love as an experience in which they find their soul mate.  What does a soul mate look like?  Well, he or she is absolutely perfect in every way imaginable.  Physically gorgeous.  Mentally brilliant.  Emotionally strong. Furthermore, the relationship between soul mates will be nothing less than blissful.  No arguments.  No misunderstandings . . . and no changes to the love that is felt at first.

Ah, now that’s where things get tricky.  Do you want to know why the divorce rate in our culture is over fifty percent?  It’s not because people out there are marrying spouses that they don’t really care for.  That doesn’t make any sense.  No, when star-crossed lovers stand teary-eyed at the altar and pledge their love to each other “until death do us part,” that’s exactly what they expect.  But at some point in the midst of their blissful journey of love, something unexpected happens: change.

Change is the deal-breaker for most of us.  Sure, we were friends until they changed.  I quit my job because my boss changed the way he treated his employees.  I loved them until they started acting differently than they did before. Everything was great until they changed.  You’ve changed!

Change, for some reason, is unexpected to us.  Have you ever stopped to think about this?  We are surprised every time someone changes and hurts our feelings.  In youth ministry, this trend is staggering.  Students will be best friends in seventh or eighth grade.  Then, when the seismic changes of the high school transition happen, they often become mortal enemies.  Then, by the time they approach their senior year and graduation, a certain social perspective comes over them and it isn’t uncommon at all to see them become best friends again.

How can “mortal enemies” become “best friends?”  Simple.  People change . . . and often.

“People change” is an eye-rollable expression that we here all the time on television and in song lyrics, but I theorize that we actually do not have a grasp of this truth.  If we did, we would not be surprised every time someone lets us down because they changed.  Have you ever met someone who only has new friends and never any long lasting ones?  That’s usually because they remain constantly perplexed that people keep letting them down.  Therefore, they let existing relationships fade away and continually initiate new friendships.  As long as people don’t change, everything’s cool.

But to their chagrin, people change every time.

What if we stopped being surprised at the shortcomings and constant changes of those around us?  What if we accepted the fact that people are going to let us down . . . that over time, they will change and it will be difficult.  It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.

Notice that this passage speaks of love in terms of “offenses,” not in terms of perfection.  “. . . love makes up for all offenses.”  Wow, what a profound idea!  Have you ever heard someone describe their best friend or new romantic interest in terms of how many faults they have that love is making up for?  Yeah, that would be weird.  But understand that the true love of God that we are striving to show in this world is useful, not just idealistic.  When people need it most is when it should make the most sense.

When you love someone as God loves them, you are aware that their changes in attitude, health, opinion, or relationship will eventually offend you.  Offense doesn’t mean that love is gone; no, it provides the prime opportunity for true love to truly exist.  We never really show the love of God until we have a good reason not to.  The unexpected moment of change . . . the moment of offense . . . are times that God’s love will make up for.  Another scripture says that “love covers a multitude of sins.”  Real love is a covering that we hold over those around us, not an unrealistic expectation that they will never need to be covered.  When we pledge to love someone, that promise should not just exist under the present conditions; it should be valid no matter what changes will occur.

Disclaimer.  This wisdom doesn’t mean that all of you out there who are dating the wrong person should continually just look over their alarming deficiencies  in faith, attitude, wisdom, and respect.  You shouldn’t stay with them because love makes up for those things– love does make up for them, but that doesn’t mean that you are the sole conduit of that love and that you should ignore godly wisdom.  You can show them godly love and still break up with them.  Hey, what about the love you are saving for your God-given soul mate?  

Whether in platonic or romantic relationships, we should understand that the love of God within us gives us the right and the strength to stay the course in our relationships, even when the path of life leads us through change and through offense.  These moments mark the real test of love in our lives.  Change is not an excuse to stop loving and to end relationships; rather, it is the moment that godly, supernatural love has the actual potential to emerge.  

When we stopped being surprised by changes, the sky’s the limit to our love.



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