Tender Hearted

A dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful book by Ruth Chou Simons, Gracelaced:  Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart.  The author is an artist so the pages are truly beautiful.  More importantly, she does a fantastic job of guiding you through meaningful self-reflection.  I highly recommend her book.  

The other day, I was reading through her section on forgiveness.  Forgiveness has always been a challenging topic for me.  I believe this is true for most people.  We want justice now.  We do not want to wait for God’s timing and His justice.

Her self-reflection question was “Who in your life needs to see your tender heart?”  I’ve considered myself to be tender hearted.  Many people have even told me that they saw me as a tender hearted, caring person.  However, I was ashamed of how many people came to mind – and how quickly – that I needed to show tenderness and mercy.  If you would have asked me two days ago if I was a grudge holder, I would have said “No.” The existence of this list says quite the opposite.  I shouldn’t have a list!  

For me, part of this comes from a lack of humility.  If my self worth is truly defined by my relationship with Jesus, how others treat me or view me does not matter.  I worry too much about how others see me.  I worry too much about being successful at work.  If someone falsely diminishes my work or undervalues what I do, it just doesn’t matter in the big picture.  The only thing that matters is what is happening between me and God – that I am working for Him!  What I do at work has little impact long term.  Instead, how I work is what matters.  I need to do all things as if for Him with a tender heart and with integrity.

Beyond the lack of humility, there is a learned behavior here as well.  Self-preservation has its role and is important; yet, sin twists it into something negative.  As a child, I learned early on that other people could not be trusted.  I kept a record of hurts.  Now this was not me as a 6 or 12 year old thinking, “Oh, I should make a list so I remember…”.  I believe it is more of a  subconscious behavior.  Part of the job of our brain is to remember situations or people that are unsafe and help us stay clear of them.  This behavior helps keep us safe.  For me, instead of applying this self-protection to extreme situations, my brain learned to apply it to everyone.  This was a bi-product of believing that no one could be trusted.  And due to this behavior and its liberal application, I spent years keeping people at arms length, and unfortunately, keeping that record of wrongs – big and small.

As a lover of Jesus, I am called to live differently and to let go of my grudge list.  I am called to a life of love.  Love does not keep a record of wrongs.  Love is patient and kind.  This is how I am called to live – to love everyone including my enemies.  I cannot hold on to grudges.

Why would God call us to love our enemies?  First, because He loved us while we were His enemies.  He wants us to love as He loves.  He wants us to live in peace with one another.  Second, all people are created in God’s own image and are precious to Him.  God sent His one and only son, Jesus, to save everyone.  Yes, everyone – all nations and all peoples – no exclusions.  When we love others, despite how they treat us, we shine the light and love of Jesus.  I need to love others because Jesus loves them.  He came to earth and died a brutal death because of how much He loves all of us.  How can I not live as He has asked when He has given so much to me?

Jesus – Please help me to love others regardless of how they treat me.  Help me not to keep a record of wrongs; instead, give me a tender heart and eyes that see others as You see them.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”    Ephesians 4:32 ESV

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”   1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son”     Romans 5:10a ESV

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”    John 3:17 ESV

Let’s Eat Together!

One of my favorite things to do is to have dinner with family and friends.  Doesn’t matter if it is a regular meal at home or at a restaurant.  There is something special about sharing a meal with others.  This is even true for the workplace.  Taking your team out for a meal naturally grows the team.  For whatever reason, a shared meal grows relationships.

This morning, I was listening to a local pastor talking about Jesus meeting with his disciples in their home after his resurrection.  He was helping them to understand what happened through the cross and prove that he was truly resurrected.  And then Jesus ate a piece of fish.  At the beginning of the verse, Pastor Paul, pointed out that Jesus entered their home and said “Peace to You” just as he had taught them to do.  Jesus was living out his instruction.  (He is not just talk.) Jesus is action.

“As they were talking about these things [Simon seeing Jesus on the road in the preceding verses], Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them ‘Peace to you!’  But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.  And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me, and see.  For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.” 

Luke 24:36-42

Why would he be asking to eat something?  This seemed very odd to me, at first.  The disciples must have had many questions.  And Jesus just came back from the dead.  Did he really need something to eat?  Then it reminded me of a verse that has come up several times for me over the past several weeks, Revelations 3:20 ESV:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Jesus doesn’t want us to just know about him.  He doesn’t want us to simply understand that he is our Lord.  He wants to come into our homes.  He wants to come in and share meals with us.  “I will eat with him and he with me.”  Together.  This is something we do with friends and family.  A meal in our home is relationship building.  Having someone over for dinner is about camaraderie and desiring to spend time with one another.  Jesus wants a deep relationship with us.  He wants to share life with us.  And he is not just words – he is action.  See what happens if you were to invite him to share a meal with you.  Invite him in and he will give “Peace to you”.