When you think of love and care, the first person that will likely come to mind is Jesus. After all, he gave his life so that you and I could be reconciled with God and spend eternity in His presence. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
And if you’re like most Christians, your desire is to BE more like Jesus. And yet, when you look at Jesus’ life and how he interacted with others, there are times that might make you scratch your head and think, “Jesus, that wasn’t very loving.”
But that’s because what we think is love often isn’t love at all—it’s codependency.
Codependency is the need to be needed. Someone who is codependent is driven by the need to please others—often at the expense of one’s own values.
This is not to be mistaken for the bible concept of Interdependency, which is a mutual responsibility to others with whom you share a common set of principles.
Even though codependency displays itself as caring, giving, and self-sacrificing, at the core, it’s very self-centered, destructive, and dishonest. That’s because codependency’s focus is to serve others in order to get your needs met.
So today, I wanted to break down a few interactions that Jesus had with some key people in scripture and show how much different that interaction would have looked IF Jesus had struggled with the dysfunction of codependency.
(Please note, it’s not my intention to be irreverent. Rather, it’s to bring awareness to our lack of insight into true biblical love.
Interaction #1: Judas
We all know about Judas’ notorious betrayal of Jesus. Judas stole money from the ministry treasury and he told the chief priests and elders where Jesus was for a meager 30 pieces of silver. I think we could say that the life of Judas was marked by selfish, manipulative, deceitful ambition.
Codependent Jesus would have begged Judas to change by trying to make him feel guilty. He would have told Judas just how much he was hurting him. And in his pleadings, he would have been enabling Judas’ behavior for fear of losing a disciple.
But our Jesus knew exactly what Judas was doing, and he allowed him enough rope to hang himself (literally). We may view that as uncaring and unloving—after all, Jesus could have prevented it. But at what point does prevention cross into control?
Jesus will let us walk down whatever road we choose. May that be a lesson for us when we think it’s our job to change someone’s behavior and choices, all in the name of ‘love.’ Jesus never tried to manage others’ behavior, and neither should we.
Interaction #2: Mary, Mother of Jesus
Many of us are thankful for all that our mothers have done in our lives. And while there is a natural bond that can occur within families, many people take this connection a bit too far. With the pervasiveness of mottos like ‘blood is thicker than water,’ and ‘family trumps all,’ it’s no wonder many people feel disloyal if they are not at their family’s beck and call.
In Matthew 12:46-50 Jesus was speaking to the crowd in typical Jesus fashion. “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Our Jesus knew what his purpose on this earth was.
Codependent Jesus would have dropped everything because his family needed him. He would have pushed his purpose aside, believing that he owed it to his mother to do whatever she wanted or needed, especially after all that she did for him!
Don’t get me wrong—Jesus loved and honored his mother, but he did it in a healthy and biblical way. His job as a child was to obey his parents, but when he came of age, he knew he needed to be about his Father’s business, and so should we.
Does this mean you never help family? Of course not. But conforming to the expectations of siblings or compulsively trying to please parents is NOT what God meant by loving your family.
Interaction #3: The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-22)
This young man came racing up to Jesus and asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life.
Jesus went on to list all the commandments—don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t lie, don’t defraud, and honor your father and mother.
The rich young ruler replied:
“Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth.” Looking at him, Jesus showed love to him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But he was deeply dismayed by these words, and he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
Our Jesus would give anyone the opportunity to turn from their selfish ways and provide eternal salvation, but he would also respect their free will.
Codependent Jesus would have chased after him, perhaps badgering him or even lowering his standards so that it wouldn’t be so hard for the rich young ruler to get into heaven.
The verse says that Jesus showed the young man love. He did so by telling him these things.
Codependents doesn’t hold people accountable. They fear losing the relationship and whatever comes with it, such as love, admiration, and attention.
Notice that it says the rich young ruler walked away—and Jesus didn’t try and stop him. He didn’t play the victim. He simply used him as an example to help those around him who WERE interested in the truth.
Interaction #4: Lame man at Bethesda
In Jerusalem there was a pool called Bethesda where the blind and lame would come to wait for the waters to be stirred so they could have their chance at healing.
When Jesus saw the man lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
How to Heal from Codependency and Embrace Interdependency
Our Jesus would heal anyone who asked but he also had them do their part.
Codependent Jesus would do everything for the man, even the things he could do himself. He would do whatever it took to get this guy to see him as the hero.
But thankfully, Jesus wasn’t codependent. He was interdependent on others. He was not a lone wolf, but nor was his mental and emotional well-being wrapped up in what others thought, felt, or said about him. He knew what his purpose was on this earth and he aimed to please God and God alone.
Jesus surrendered to the will of God, not those he served.
He never lost sight of who he was, and he never took his focus off his purpose, no matter how many people he upset in doing so.
Jesus cared deeply for people who were hurting. But his love drove him to hold people accountable when necessary—in many cases, he brought rebuke. And he never enabled or coddled their sin.
If you want to learn how to heal from codependency, Jesus’ example can be a powerful step in the right direction. Jesus wanted to fix people but would never force them. Codependents try to force people to do what they think is right. Jesus let people walk away, even though it meant their eternal damnation.
My friend, it is my hope that we truly want to love like Jesus, not some distorted version of love.
If you want to learn the 7 warning signs of people pleasing and how to stop….check out this episode here.