“But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” – 1 Timothy 1:5
Last week, we took a look at the importance of love in counseling. We began laying a foundation by comparing the world’s unhealthy and incorrect views of love with that which the Bible rightly teaches about love. To complete our description of the cap-stone of love, I wanted to add a few points about how our display of biblical love practically applies when we counsel others. Because we know that biblical love is not based on the whims of feelings and emotion, I think we can piece together how the application of love fleshes out in counseling.
(I) How Love affects the Counselor: When I began to think of the necessity of love in counseling, I do not think first about the counselee being unloving but rather the temptation for the counselor to be unloving. Perhaps one of the most destructive things to helping another person change is when you minister the Word of God to them in an unloving way. We who use the Word of God to help others must never stray from the command given in Galatians 6:1 which says, “Brethren, even I anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” The attitude in which we are to treat out fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is one of supreme gentleness and love.
Love, as described in 1 Corinthians 13 always, “…believes all things, hopes all things…” If this is the true characteristic of love, how are we supposed to interact then with those whom we minister the Word of God to? We are to hope, in love that they can change into the image of Christ, and we are to believe that what they communicate to us is true. Often when counseling, it is easy for one in authority to attempt to judge the motives of the one he is counseling. This is not right. In love (and discernment) you must believe that what they tell you is the truth and therefore must come alongside them, bearing their burden, and point them to Christ.
Love also affects the counselor’s interaction with the counselee because it will always speak the truth. We are commanded by Paul in Ephesians 4:15, “…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…” Love is equated with speaking the truth, even when the truth may be hard or awkward to speak. Love also means that you will be willing to risk your own personal comfort by confronting others in their sins. Perhaps the best description of what this looks like is found in Proverbs 27:5-6 which reads, “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful and the kisses of an enemy.” The Biblical counselor will act as a friend to his fellow saint, and even though difficult, out of love he will wound his friend with the truth pointing him back to the way of Christ. Christians must be committed to this type of Biblical love, especially in counseling!
(II) How Love affects the Counselee: Biblical Love also has a great impact of the person who is receiving biblical counsel from another brother or sister in Christ. In most counseling cases and scenarios the person who is receiving the counsel does not understand the concept of Biblical love and therefore does not know how to apply it to their lives.
First of all, the counselee must understand that biblical love is an active choice that one makes. It is not based on feeling but rather obedience to God’s commands. Therefore even if you don’t feel like loving someone else, God’s Word says, “Love your neighbour as yourself…” or “Husbands, love your wives…” or even, “Love your enemies…” There is no escape from the command to love others. It does not matter what you feel like doing. Love is not based on feeling, it is based on action. When the actions of love take place, the feelings will always follow. For the counselee, this is intensely practical. Whether it is an employee who is struggling with an employer, a husband who struggles with his wife, a young person who struggles with their peers, the command to love is all the same. Love will only result when at least one party makes it their aim to display biblical, selfless, sacrificial love to another.
I’ll leave you with one final point about the choice to love. Because our world has so promoted love as a feeling, many people have the false assumption that to love against your feelings would be hypocritical. This is not the case though. Loving against ones feelings is not hypocritical because love is plainly commanded by God. Obeying God’s commands, especially His command to love another is never hypocritical. It is actually right and biblical.
My favorite description in all of the Word of God concerning Love is that which is found in Ephesians 5. The Love that the Lord commands a husband to have for his wife is the most precious and awe-inspiring love on this earth because it pictures the love that Christ has given to His bride, the church. With this I will close:
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of the water with the Word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to His wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” – Ephesians 5:25-33