Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Key to a Tender Heart

“He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” (Matthew 19:8)

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

The root cause of every interpersonal conflict from divorce to all out war is the hardness of the human heart. The opposite of hard-heartedness is the tender-heartedness described in Ephesians 4:32. A person develops the tender heart by forgiving people. The source for the strength to forgive comes from a reflection upon Christ's forgiveness. We grow into a deep understanding of all that Christ has forgiven us for and that allows us to forgive others. A life lived that way results in a tender heart. A life of unforgiveness results in a hard heart that demands a certificate of divorce. Such people deceive themselves that changing their circumstances will result in that which only a change of heart condition can accomplish.

I want to be a forgiving person, keeping my heart tender before the Lord by reflecting on His forgiveness of me and extending that same forgiveness to others.

Some years ago, my friend Dave Legg wrote the following about forgiveness:

All too often our approach to conflict and hurt is separation. Unfortunately, separation is never the solution when unity is the problem. When God says make every effort to maintain the unity of the body (Ephesians 4:3), He chose to use a powerful idea. The phrase “make every effort” means literally to strive like a gladiator. In other words, it’s not a casual suggestion or something to do if we’re not busy. Often, a refusal to forgive a wrong keeps us locked in the past and unable to move into the future.

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the story of the unforgiving servant who ends up in prison at the end. Jesus then concludes the parable by saying, "this is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart". I believe the prison that Jesus is talking about here is the prison of a hardened heart. It is a prison of the unforgiving person's own making.

Forgiveness is the key to a tender heart and a tender heart is key to finishing the race. Most people have thin skins and hard hearts. Christ followers must have thick skins and tender hearts.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Al, You blessed my heart this morning. I think we often forget that when Jesus describes himself he says; for I am gentle and humble in heart...(Mt 11.29) A man with a gentle heart will find it much easier to forgive and have rest for his soul.