He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Then Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.”…then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!” (2 Samuel 13:4,15)
Just because someone says he loves you doesn’t mean he knows what real love is. For that matter, how many of us really know fully what real love is? Because God fully defines love because it’s who He is, and we can’t fully know God yet, our understanding of love will be limited. But there are some things about which we can be certain that love is not.
David had a son Amnon who was “infatuated” with David’s daughter Tamar. Yes, they were half-siblings, having the same father but different mothers. Amnon shared that he was “in love” with Tamar with a friend and relative, who encouraged him to manipulate some alone time with her. He demanded sex. She refused. He raped her. Next comes the verses at the beginning of today’s reading. He said he hated her more strongly than he loved her. Tamar refused his “love,” but also tried to refuse his hate, exclaiming, “sending me away is greater than the other that you have done to me!”
No wonder we have issues dealing with what love really is! It gets worse. Tamar’s full brother Absalom kills Amnon. David grieves for multiple children. Oh, the tangled webs we weave. And here’s what we often do in response: we try to rationalize who is right and wrong, who is justified and unjustified. We want justice. God’s got that taken care of. What if we focus on what He says about love instead?
Just because the word “love” is used in Scripture doesn’t mean it’s an accurate reflection of godly love. We can isolate something in Scripture and rationalize something God never intended us to rationalize. We can take what seems to be a snapshot of love and put a frame around it, declaring it as “love” instead of putting it in a collage or photo album and recognizing that it must be a distortion of love because it certainly doesn’t fit God’s consistent portrayal of love. Instead of its own individual frame, it gets a caption “love, distortion of” to make it easily identifiable in the future.
We usually hear the term “love/hate relationship” with things like ice cream, pizza, shopping, exercise, and so on. We like something, but we pay the price later, therefore, not liking something at the same time we like it. It’s a cost/benefit thing. But I’m not sure I agree these things are actually love/hate relationships. I don’t know that either feeling is that intense to actually polarize to loving and hating the same thing. It’s more of a like/dislike relationship. If both love and hate were involved, I think one would tip the scales.
It’s like when we say we really don’t want to do something, yet we do it. We’re playing mind games with ourselves. After all, there has to be some aspect of it that we actually want to do, otherwise, we would reject it all together. Maybe it’s the expectations, obligations, or attention that drives us to go through with it, but there’s something motivating. When we choose to do something but say we don’t want to, we’re saying one thing and doing another. We’re deciding which side of the cost/benefit continuum is more important.
When the feelings are as intense as love and hate, I think one is more prevalent than another. We’re either not acknowledging it, or we’re distorting the definitions of love and hate. Like in Amnon’s case. When I broaden my perspective, I believe he hated Tamar. But I don’t believe he loved her. Sure, perhaps he loved her the way he thought was love. He verbally said he loved her. But that doesn’t indicate the truth of love. I’ve had someone tell me he loved me, and I think he was convinced he did, but his love was a distortion of love.
God doesn’t distort love…ever. What He says is love is. What He says isn’t love isn’t. There’s no love/hate relationship with Him. If you’re following Him and seeking to live His love out loud, there won’t be love/hate relationships with others either. He’ll reveal the truthfulness of how you’re defining each and how you need to respond to express what He says you’re to express.
Dear God, help me to see love in the light of Your truth. I don’t want to distort it, either in the way I express it or the way I receive it. I praise You for providing eyes to see Your perspective and a heart to gain Your understanding.