The Tender Heart

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

As human beings, we tend to allow our feelings and emotions to color the way we view people. If we are favorably disposed toward someone, we are more likely to be kind to them, trust them, and always give them the benefit of the doubt. If we are unfavorably disposed toward someone, we are not as likely to be as kind to them. We will not trust them, we will look upon them with suspicion and maybe fear, and we certainly will not give them the benefit of the doubt!

This seems rather natural, as Jesus makes clear in Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:31-36. Most people love those who love them, and most people do good for those who do good to them. Most people also hate their enemies. Jesus indicates that there is no substantive virtue in these things, because people do them naturally. In short, it does not take a lot of effort to be kind to those to whom we are favorably disposed.

God calls us to a higher path. Christians are to be kind and tenderhearted toward everyone, even to those to whom they are not favorably disposed. Personal, political, religious, and any other type of enemies or “opponents” should be treated as kindly and as lovingly as relatives and close friends. We must be willing to think the best of everyone and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

This is extremely challenging and counter-intuitive, and it is clearly part of God’s purposes in the Kingdom. When we no longer act like the world and nurse suspicions and hostilities, we demonstrate that we are no longer of the world (John 15:19). When we demonstrate that we are willing to be favorably disposed toward everyone, others will be more likely to be favorably disposed toward us!

The world thrives on conflict, opposition, hostilities, suspicions, fears, and judgmentalism. The forces active in this world love nothing more than to promote conflict, opposition, hostilities, suspicions, fears, and judgmentalism among those who would profess Jesus Christ, toward those within and without (cf. Ephesians 6:12). When that takes place, Christians lose their savor, and people see the hypocrisy and judgmentalism (Matthew 5:13-16). Since they can get that in the world, why not stay in the world?

The path of kindness, the tender heart, and forgiveness is very difficult. Nevertheless, it is not really an option, for Christians are called to be like their Lord (1 John 2:6). We should show mercy because God has showed us mercy (Luke 6:36). Where would we be if God were unfavorably disposed toward us? If God were suspicious of us, and never gave us the benefit of the doubt, where would we be? God has demonstrated immeasurable kindness and His tender heart by giving us of His Son so that we may have eternal life, and that kindness is shown to all men (John 3:16, Romans 5:5-11). If we want to be as God and Christ, we must show that same kindness to our fellow man. We must allow our heart to be open to them and attempt to get beyond whatever would divide and separate us from them. The love of God must compel us in these matters.

Let us no longer be of the world, but let us show the kindness and tender heart of God to all men!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Tender Heart

Divine Kindness

“But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35).

Love and kindness come easily for those who are loving and kind to us.  We enjoy time we spend with those who love us and who are kind to us.  We get together with them and eat and give presents and receive presents.  We recognize that such people in our lives help make life worth living.

Can you imagine attempting to share such gifts with those who hate you?  What happened if you gave gifts to ungrateful people?  What if you did good to others and were repaid with evil?  What happens if you lend someone money and they never repay?

According to human logic, we would at best have nothing to do with such persons, and at worst do them harm (cf. Matthew 5:43).  It is expected that lovable people are loved and unlovable people are shunned.  It is expected that those who are ungrateful get little and those who do not repay have no credit.

Yet, in the Kingdom of God, all of these things are turned on their head.  Jesus turns the world upside down!  He prayed for those who reviled Him and crucified Him (Luke 23:34).  He prayed for His disciple whom He knew would deny Him (Luke 22:31-32).

As it is written,

For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).

While it is always easier to point fingers at everyone else, we must recognize that we, too, have spent our time in unkindness and ungratefulness (Titus 3:3-8).  God has showed kindness to us when we were unthankful and evil.  He showed us mercy despite our unmerciful attitudes.  He was not yet willing to condemn us even though we were willing to condemn others.  He provided wonderful gifts even though we forsook Him.

Therefore, it ought to be but a little thing for us to show divine kindness: love and help not just those who love us and help us, but also to those who make us uncomfortable, those who might use and abuse us, and those who may hate us.  After all, without God showing us such divine kindness, where would be be?

Ethan R. Longhenry

Divine Kindness