The origins of that phrase are unknown. Many people mistakenly believe it to be part of the Hippocratic Oath which doctors take upon graduation from medical school. Though the phrase is not specifically found in the oath, it is a cornerstone of modern bioethics.
Sometimes I feel like my dentist didn’t take that oath. As I sit in the chair, tears running down my face, my jaw aching and my mouth bleeding, it seems like my dentist is out to do me harm.
Yet when I leave, I tell him, “Thank you.”
I tell him, “Thank you” because he isn’t out to harm me, but to help me. What he did to my mouth hurt me, but it did not harm me.
To quote the 70’s band Nazareth, “Love hurts.”
Sometimes love causes pain. Love, in its essence, does what is best for another person even when it is painful to them. We call that tough love.
Our world today has lost the concept of tough love. In fact, our society’s definition of love in general is somewhat skewed.
Love is selflessness. God the Father loved us so much he gave up his one and only Son to save us. Jesus loved us so much he gave up everything for us. Love gives and forgives. Love sacrifices. Love does everything for the other person.
For many in our world today, however, love is defined by another word – tolerance. Now don’t get me wrong. Tolerance is an aspect of love. Love accepts. Love receives. Love makes no distinction of persons. Jesus invited all people to come to him and find forgiveness.
Yet, love does not tolerate everything. In love, Jesus rebuked people. He told them they were wrong. He told them their sins deserved the horrors of hell where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus powerfully and poignantly pointed out people’s sins because he loved them so much. They needed to see their sin to be able to see their need for his forgiveness. Love sometimes hurts.
Many Christians today are being condemned for standing up and speaking out about sin. They are being called unloving for saying that homosexuality is a sin or abortion is murder.
To be fair, some Christians are not speaking those truths in love. They allow anger or biting words to cloud their confession.
Yet to speak those unpopular truths is love. We may be accused of being hateful or judgmental, but in the end, it is love.
If my brother is asleep in a burning building, it is my business. It is love to wake him up. It is love to humbly tell others they are sinners in need of a Savior. It is love to show them their sins so they can find forgiveness in Jesus and change their behavior.
Tough love is tough, though. Not everybody thanks the dentist. Speaking the truth will not win you any popularity contests. The truth sometimes hurts.
But it is love.