Taking the Tenderness Challenge

Colossians 3-12

Here’s the challenge:

Your child spills her cup of milk at dinner.

She wasn’t being bad.  It certainly wasn’t malicious.  But she was a child who was being…childish.  Not quite paying attention.  Acting a little clumsy, a little distracted, and a little too caught up in being silly and not paying enough attention to the distance between her hand and the cup on the dinner table.

You know…this is how accidents happen.  We make mistakes.

Do you:

  • Sigh.  Big.  Maybe roll your eyes.  Make a big body language statement about how fed up you are with childish behavior.
  • Lecture.  Give a grand ol’ parental speech about paying attention, maybe even covering topics such as physics, human behavior, and child psychology.
  • Yell.  Call the child names and shame them.
  • Give them the silent treatment.
  • Place your hand on their back gently as you hand them some paper towels and whisper the reminder that mistakes happen.

Me?  I’m generally a lecturer.  In fact, my speeches take on a life of their own at times. I know I should stop lecturing my child and driving home deep life lessons at such a moment, but it’s like I just cannot stop my tongue and hush my mouth up already.

What about you?

I’ve been reading and re-reading this story about Martha, grumbling and complaining in the kitchen and then running to Jesus to tattle-tale about her sister, Mary.

Maybe during the summer months when my own kids are devolving into spats and squabbles and then come running to me for judicial rulings, I’m totally interested in how Jesus responds to sisters fighting.

First, I notice what He doesn’t do.

He doesn’t shame Martha.

He doesn’t heave His shoulders up and down in a big, audible sigh.  He doesn’t roll His eyes or nonverbally scream that He’s oh-so-tired of Martha’s childish behavior.

He doesn’t call her names.

He doesn’t bully her, abuse her or lecture her.

Jesus responds with tenderness.  Right in the middle of her chaos and conflict, right where she is in sin and ugliness, right when you’d think she merited punishment or admonition , Jesus chooses the loving response instead.

He starts off by saying:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41 ESV).

Only then, after He’s gentle assured her of His attention and care, does He address the greater need of her heart.

And then there’s Peter, of course, sitting with Jesus after His resurrection and likely feeling desperately afraid of what Jesus might do or say.

Peter was the denier.  The one who promised to stick by Jesus no matter what and the one who betrayed him at the earliest opportunity.

How would Jesus react to Peter?

Duck behind the aisles of Jerusalem’s Wal-Mart in order to avoid Him?

Un-friend him on Facebook?

Stop answering his phone calls?

Would he yell or scream or turn away or belittle Peter, such a failure of a disciple?

No, Jesus shares a breakfast of newly caught fish with Peter and over the crackling of a seaside bonfire, restores Peter and commissions him for leadership within the new church.

Jesus reflects God’s heart for us, just as the prophet Isaiah wrote:

 Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you… (Isaiah 30:18a ESV).

He chooses to be gracious.  He doesn’t give us what we deserve; He gives us compassion.

Of course, it’s not natural.

Lectures are natural.

Frustration is natural.

Annoyance and even anger are natural.

When someone else fails, we can default to what’s natural or we can choose what is Jesus.

As a mom, a wife, a friend, a woman….I want to choose Jesus, not just when it’s easy, but when the pressure is on.  When my heart is racing, when I’m hurt, when I’m annoyed or even angry, choose Jesus.

May my instant reaction, the one unfiltered by niceties and good Christian girl facades, be deep-down compassion and grace.

Gary Smalley wrote:

Remaining tender during a trial is one of the most powerful ways to build an intimate relationship (Love is a Decision).

He also said,

At the moment of vulnerability, and particularly in the midst of the crisis itself, what a person needs first is tenderness (Love is a Decision).

Character-training can come later.  Loving boundaries or correction can come later, quietly, privately, gently.  There’ll be plenty of time for that.

But right there when there’s mess all around and their heart is hurting, people need tender mercy not condemnation.

So, I can build up relational walls and spout off words I’ll later regret, or I can reach out a gentle hand, place it on the small of their back and take the tenderness challenge by learning how to love others like Jesus loves me.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12 ESV).


Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.




VBS Lessons: No Matter What People Do

All week long I’m thinking about the Bible points for our Vacation Bible School and what they mean for adults.  This week will be a mix of some old and some new as I share these lessons.

Tonight at Sky VBS! (Group Publishing), we’re learning: No Matter What People Do…Trust God!


In high school, Carl didn’t score touchdowns like the sports star Norman.  Instead, Carl served as the sports manager for the team—close to the action, but never quite getting the glory.

One day in the locker room, Norman played a teenage prank on Carl and then they went their separate ways.  Norman played football and studied education in college, earning his master’s degree and returning to the high school to teach and coach for over 30 years.

Carl took a different path.  More than 50 years after that initial locker room prank, Carl showed up at Norman’s house and shot him with a pistol.  At 73 years old, Carl is now starting a life term in prison.

Not exactly the best way to spend your retirement years.

I read this new story last week and it troubled me in a deep-down unshakeable way.  It’s partly because the story dismisses that teenage prank.  Of course, it couldn’t possibly be worth killing someone over 50 years after the fact.  Of course it makes no sense to murder a 70-year old man for something he did in high school.

Yet, bullying, teasing, and publicly embarrassing others seem to be the signature traits of our society and they aren’t easily shrugged off, even by the strongest and most confident among us.  It’s a reminder to us all how how lives can be destroyed by what we say and do.

The story, though, also illustrates something else.  It shows how what people do to us usually determines our character far more than it impacts theirs.

Carl—the 73-year-old killer over a high school grudge—lived an embittered life, entangled in jealousy and unforgiveness.  Norman lived a full life that sounded successful and happy.

We have a similar choice when people intend evil for us.  Like Joseph staring across an Egyptian banqueting table at the brothers who sold him into slavery decades before, we must choose what to do with our offenders.

The Lord’s Prayer instructs us clearly: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

If you look at most modern translations of this passage, they read something like: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 HCSB).

That’s because we perceive wrongs against us as a debt that someone needs to pay.  Someone owe us because they took something from us–our innocence, our purity, our dignity, our job, our financial security, our husband, our self-esteem . ..

Pretty soon we’re wrapped up in unforgiveness and anger so tight that our whole life is hindered.  We’re tripping all over ourselves when we try to get anywhere.

In his book, Enemies of the Heart, Andy Stanley reminds us that the only way to break free from the snare of anger and unforgiveness is to cancel the debt.

We need to forgive.  Why?  Because we’ve been forgiven.

Stanley writes:

In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy.  But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another (129).

Jesus Himself, tortured and crucified by a jeering mob when he had done nothing at all to deserve it, still looked down from the cross and prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

In “You Want Me To Pray What?” I wrote:

“In the same way, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” just as the final stones pelted his body and killed him (Acts 7:59).

Have you considered who Stephen was praying for in that moment?  One of the men standing by the coat rack cheering on the crowd was Saul—later the apostle Paul.

Stephen asked for God to forgive his persecutors and shortly afterward this same Saul sat on a roadside blinded by Jesus Christ himself, experiencing repentance and conversion.

Satan fully intends to tangle us up in bitterness and jealousy.  He wants to defeat our ministry and make us thoroughly unusable because we’re so riled up and distracted by dissension and arguments.

He just doesn’t know what to do when we pray shockingly humble prayers on behalf of others, particularly our enemies.  There’s power there.”

No matter what people do to us, we can trust God to use it for His glory and to help us through.  More than that, we can ask him to help us forgive so we can move forward in freedom and blessing, no longer hindered by the bitter entanglements of our past.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King