Monday, August 29, 2011

Toughminded and Tenderhearted

God is neither hardhearted nor softminded. He is toughminded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.
At times we need to know that the Lord is a God of justice. When slumbering giants of injustice emerge in the earth, we need to know that there is a God of power who can cut them down like the grass and leave them withering like the green herb. When our most tireless efforts fail to stop the surging sweep of oppression, we need to know that in this universe is a God whose matchless strength is a fit contrast to the sordid weakness of man.
But there are also times when we need to know that God possesses love and mercy. When we are staggered by the chilly winds of adversity and battered by the raging storms of disappointment and when through our folly and sin we stray into some destructive far country and are frustrated because of a strange feeling of homesickness, we need to know that there is Someone who loves us, cares for us, understands us, and will give us another chance.
When days grow dark and nights grow dreary, we can be thankful that our God combines in his nature a creative synthesis of love and justice which will lead us through life's dark valleys and into sunlit pathways of hope and fulfilment.
-- from Strength to Love by Martin Luther King Jr

So many times people try to only pick one side of God. When someone has hurt us we want Him to be a God who deals with that person, but when we are the one who has done the hurting we want a God of mercy. I agree with Mr. King, I am thankful our God is both toughminded and tenderhearted. Toughminded enough to give us truth and discipline but tenderhearted enough to give us a second chance when we have went away from that truth.
This is the example that Jesus gave us when he came to reveal God to us in the flesh.

Jesus was toughminded. He could not be "handled" no matter how hard the people tried. He could not be influenced or swayed or deceived or stumped. He could not be emotionally manipulated or intimidated by popular opinion. He used his mind. He knew how to think. He knew truth and the lie can never stand up against the truth.

Jesus was also tenderhearted enough that he felt compassion for all. He didn't use His knowledge to condemn another or beat them further down into their sin. He didn't see Himself as more superior and walk over the one who was dead in their sin. Jesus rolled up His sleeves and got right down in the muck of another's life in order to use His tough mind to pull them up.

We are called as believers to be "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16), "to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil." (Romans 16:19) We too must be both toughminded and tenderhearted. Our minds must be strong enough to hold up against all the lies of the enemy and all the philosophies and false doctrines of man. Yet we must also be able to give compassion (not pity) and mercy and grace to those who in their soft mind and weakness have become a prey.

I believe this can only be accomplished in and through Christ in us. We have not the ability to do this on our own... we will either be tenderhearted with no toughmind, allowing all sorts of sin and corruption with no rebuke, calling it tolerance or even love. Or we will be only toughminded and will love not. We will be cold and heartless and show no compassion to those who live below our standard.

As I parent my children I can see the need for both the tenderheart and toughmind. I must be toughminded so that I know how to lead them and set a standard and expect it to be kept. I have to be toughminded enough to not allow my children to "handle" me. My children will not control me by emotion. However, I also need to be tenderhearted with my children showing them love and mercy and grace. They need to know that they are loved because they are mine, not because they are perfect.

My parents use to tell me that they loved me with one hand and the other hand was for my backside when I got out of line. And it was true. I knew they loved me no matter what, but I also knew they would discipline me no matter what.

Hmmm how interesting it is that over and over as we discover the truths of the character of God we find the greatest illustrations of Him (other than Christ Himself) in the family, either through marriage or the raising of our children.

No wonder Satan works so hard to destroy and distort the family...

"God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them."
Genesis 1:27

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