Read Jeremiah 35
Focus on verse 15
The strongest relationships are not those that never experience friction. The strongest relationships are the ones that allow the friction of conflict to make them stronger. Our culture tends to attempt to convince us that the evidence of true love in a relationship is that the parties involved never fight. While this may eventually become the fruit of a relationship that endures, the reason it is strong is because the parties involved were committed to fighting for the relationship.
Persistent love will fight to save a relationship. What is important to understand in this is that fighting to save a relationship looks very different than fighting to have one’s way in a relationship. The biggest difference is that when we fight to save a relationship, we both understand that we are on the same team, and we fight together against the external forces that we have identified as a threat to the relationship. While this may still involve disagreement, or even argument and misunderstanding, it is very different from the disagreement and argument that occurs when we mistake the other party in the relationship as the threat.
In today’s reading in Jeremiah we find the Lord describing His persistent love for His people. He says:
I have sent you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, “Turn now everyone of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers.” But you did not incline your ear or listen to me. (v. 15)
What we catch a glimpse of here is God, fighting for the relationship with His people. He is at the point where He is angry, but this does not mean that He hates His people; in fact it is quite the opposite. His anger is motivated by His love for them.
This can happen in our human relationships as well. We become frustrated and angry, most often because we are unable to express our feelings in a way that is correctly understood by the object of our affection. What we most often fail to see is that true love by necessity requires the freedom of choice. I cannot force someone to love me. I might be able to force someone to exhibit certain behaviors out of fear or coercion that give the appearance of love, but that is not true love. It is not a complicated matter to program a computer to execute a script that makes the computer print out, “I love you” on a screen when my wife presses the correct keys on the keyboard to send me a text message, but it would be ridiculous for me to conclude upon reading the text that it is my computer, or my smart phone that loves me.
Love is only possible if it is born out of the free choice of the person offering it. God knows this better than any of us. It is possible that He could use His power to force us to obey Him. He could have created us to be incapable of rejecting Him, however, that would have also have made us incapable of loving Him. For love to be true, we must have the freedom to choose not to love. This is true of our love for one another, as it is of our love for God. This is also why it is often necessary for us to fight for any relationship that is worth having, understanding that we are not fighting to control the other party, that is not love. That would be control. In reality what we most often have to fight against is our own desire to control; essentially our own selfishness.
Persistent love is unconditional love. When we walk away from God, He doesn’t stop loving us! Yes, He allows us to walk away; yes, He sometimes allows us to get hurt; but He never stops loving us, and He is always ready and waiting for us to come to our senses and choose to repent and return to Him, but because He loves us and values our freedom, He waits for us to make the choice.