This may sound counter-intuitive, but if you want to crush someone you love, if you want to ruin a relationship, then all you have to do is love them too much. Place them on a pedestal. Make them the center of your life. Derive your significance, well-being, and happiness from them and you will succeed. You will destroy that relationship.
I think of “Lennie” from Of Mice and Men. Lennie was a well-intentioned, often misunderstood character. He never meant anybody harm. But seemingly everyone who crossed his path ended up getting hurt if not killed. He constantly made a mess of his relationships, whether it’s the woman who tried to befriend him or a puppy that he loved. His uncontrollable, over-the-top emotions, wreaked more havoc than good.
Like Lennie, we don’t intend to hurt those we love. But when our love for others takes on idolatrous overtones, when we elevate our relationships to the pedestal of God, that’s when we make a mess of them. There’s a difference between desiring someone’s happiness and living for their happiness. There’s a difference between desiring someone’s approval and living for their approval. The former is biblical. The latter is idolatry.
People were not created to be the center of our universe. That role belongs to God. God alone can give us lasting significance, fulfillment, and joy. Living for anyone else besides God will lead to inevitable disappointment, anxiety, frustration, and failure. No one, no matter how perfect they may be, can fill the shoes of God. There’s no wonder why so many buckle and crack under the high pressure environment of an idolatrous relationship. We essentially place god-sized expectations on mere humans, sinful ones at that! It’s like trying to catch a mighty marlin with ten pound fishing line. The ten pound fishing line isn’t designed to withstand the power and force of a marlin. It’s only a matter of time before it snaps. The Bible makes clear: he is God and we are not. When this line is blurred, people end up getting hurt.
The effects of relationship idolatry are not hard to find. How many marriages end in bitter divorce because unlike Jerry Maguire, he/she in-completed me? How many teenagers rebel and run away because they can no longer handle the pressure of an obsessive, smothering parent? How many feel controlled and suffocated by a jealous loved one who watches every move and interaction like a hawk? When someone becomes your functional god, the slightest remark or passing comment can either depress you or enrage you. What they say or don’t say becomes disproportionately important. That is, everything they say or do takes on god-sized proportions.
However, when the gospel shapes your identity and significance, when the gospel becomes your center of gravity, your relationships will flourish. When first things are first, second things thrive. The gospel frees you from overwhelming and suffocating others. It frees you from the temptation to control and dominate others. It enables you to accept criticism and complaints directed against you since your hope is found in Christ’s performance, not yours. It protects you from crushing disappointment when others fail to reciprocate your love. In other words, the gospel helps you to love others unconditionally. A gospel-soaked life produces other-centered love—love that is no longer about you, but about them.
If you really want to be a blessing to your loved ones, then cling to the gospel. There alone will you meet a lover who never fails and never disappoints. There you will meet a lover who cherishes you perfectly and declares you of infinite significance and worth. Only then can we grow healthy relationships that edify, honor, and encourage those God has placed in our lives.
<-- Back to Blog