No more tough guy

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Whitey Bulger, a crime boss from Boston, died in a West Virginia prison this week.  Authorities said he was beaten to death. Not many are mourning for him. Bulger was a cruel, murderous career criminal, who apparently lacked any real ability to feel compassion. A man associated with him recounted how the boss had beaten, stabbed, shot, and/or ran over many people, killing them without a moment’s remorse.  Compared to him, most of us are real teddy bears! But, God does not grade on a curve. He asks us to go beyond avoiding cruelty, to becoming people with tender hearts.

Paul writes to us as the Spirit inspires saying – “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14, NIV)

The first directive of that passage tells us to ‘clothe yourselves with compassion.’  The NT Greek phrase is much more colorful and the KJV comes closer to a literal translation when we read ‘put on … bowels of mercy.’   Our emotions are not only shown in our tears, they are often felt in our gut!  Fear or excitement can make us feel nauseous, right? We talk about our heart as a center of emotion, even though we know it is a muscle that pumps blood. The ancients thought that emotions originated in the gut.

So, what is the Lord asking of us? Develop a tenderness that allows us to feel the pain, the need, the tragedy, the joy, the hopes, the disappointments of others.

Be tender-hearted! Are you? It is a costly choice.  Life is so much simpler if we avoid getting ‘involved’ with the ‘drama’ in other people’s lives. Compassion causes us to care. Care leads us to love. Love demands a response.  Love is messy, keeps us prayerful, makes us sacrifice.

 There are those who choose to be tough, to reflect the pain around them back onto those who suffer.  “Choices have consequences,” they say and then they brush off the broken, the bruised. Can you see Jesus saying, “Well, that’s tough. Work it out for yourself.” as He walks away?  No, that’s not His way.

What does the Word say? “We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”  Jesus stepped into the sinful world, not as some demi-god or nobleman, but as a servant to save us. He did not do it because we had made one simple mistake with which we needed a little help. He found us at the point of desperation and died for us!

Look again at the constellation of characteristics that the love of God creates in us if we allow the Spirit to do His work:  “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”  These qualities will make us willing to forgive, give love a fertile place to grow in us, and create a community of authentic love.  Those kinds of churches are awfully rare and tremendously precious, in my opinion.

Tenderhearted is not the same as naïve, by the way. It is sometimes true that a person has made terrible decisions that have led them into a swamp of misery.  Love doesn’t mean we become participants in the dysfunction or evil of another.  We are people committed to bold love that redeems and lifts, modeled after that of Jesus. He did not come to merely soothe us and tell us that everything is just fine. He came to rescue us from sin, to show us the Way to our Father, and to lead us out of slavery to sin to lives that are beautiful. But, we cannot be like Him if we cannot weep, if we cannot find empathy, if we are unwilling to see beyond the surface.

Ours is a world full of pain, anger, and victimhood!  Make it your prayer to be a person with a tender heart – moved to care, to prayer, to redemptive love.

Here is the word from the Word. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:31-5:2, NIV)

____________

Hosanna

(note the prayer near the end of the song)

 I see the King of glory
Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes
The whole earth shakes yeah

 I see His love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing
The people sing

 Hosanna hosanna
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
With selfless faith

 I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees
We’re on our knees

 Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

Brooke Ligertwood © 2006 Hillsong Music Publishing (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

1 Comment

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One response to “No more tough guy

  1. Corinne Pursell

    thank you

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