What does it mean to cherish someone? It’s a word that is often used in wedding vows, but it is relevant in all our relationships. When Paul and Timothy wrote to the Colossians, they praised them for the love they held for all people,1 and that sense of holding love is like cherishing. The Cambridge Dictionary defines “cherish” as:
to love, protect, and care for someone or something that is important to you
Often when we talk about cherishing something, or someone, we are referring to a deeply treasured person or thing. While I have many books I love, there are just a handful I cherish. I cherish my faith. I cherish many people: they have entered my heart. In this series, we are going to look at the issue of crossed boundaries. Especially personal boundaries, rather than in the sense of breaking rules.
Abusers can cross boundaries in many ways, such as physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. All of these are significant, and part of the pain of abuse is that violation. A gift is completely different from a theft. Why start with a focus on cherishing? Well, one reason is its importance in our understanding of marriage. But since abuse is such a complicated and confusing thing to live with, the idea of cherishing can help us cut through behaviour and words to see more clearly.
What does the Bible have to say about cherishing people?
You won’t necessarily find the word “cherish” used in the Bible, depending on what translation you have. And it won’t necessarily be used in the sense we are interested in right now. The NIV talks about cherishing wisdom,2 but also about people who cherished sin.3 However, the Bible talks incessantly about the value of people, and the importance of caring for each other. God made us in his image. We have innate value. When we look at the fruits of the Spirit, most of them are clearly relational:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.4
We can’t separate the Christian life from relationships and the way we treat people. The fruit of the Spirit shows in our behaviour. The opposite of that behaviour is abuse. Abuse is not patient, kind, or good. It is not faithful or gentle. Abusers do not control their sinful behaviour. Abuse is not love. These are well-known passages. 1 Corinthians paints a clear and behavioural picture of love also:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.5
These passages, and others like them, are a filter through which we can consider the difference between abuse and love. The narcissist is there: envious, boasting, proud, self-seeking. But so is the picture of cherishing others: patience, kindness, humility, respect.
So what does it mean to cherish someone?
One of my favourite pictures of God cherishing us comes from Zephaniah, in a passage where it is very clear he is not talking to those who love to hurt others, but to those who care:
He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.6
This is beautiful. What does it mean to cherish someone? It means we delight in them. Great delight. That doesn’t mean we have to always agree with them, but they are precious to us. It means they are safe with us. Proverbs says:
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.7
Someone who cherishes us can give us feedback for our benefit, or even hurt us, but we know they have empathy and respect for us. When they apologise, they mean it. If you cherish someone, you care about their welfare. It matters how they feel. You see them and the motivations behind the way they behave.
It is such a relief when even your mistakes and badly expressed opinions are filtered through the heart and mind of someone who knows your good intent. Those relationships are the very opposite of being with an abuser with whom you need to walk on eggshells. To be cherished is to be seen and loved.
Listen to your flags
Deliberate abusers work hard to change our internal guides about love. True, there are tactics, like “love-bombing”, that can deliberately look like cherishing for a while. But in the end, as we take time to see more of their behaviour, it jars with the way the Bible talks about love and relationships, and even love-bombing becomes more obviously self-serving.
Cherishing is a vital part of healthy relationships. It’s part of the marriage vows. If you are in a significant relationship of any kind where you aren’t being cherished, may I encourage you to look closely? A service like 1800RESPECT might be one way of clarifying whether you are experiencing abuse.
Steve WadeIt is such a relief when even your mistakes and badly expressed opinions are filtered through the heart and mind of someone who knows your good intent. That’s the very opposite of needing to walk on eggshells with an abuser. Click To Tweet
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