He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; he is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. Psalm 103:8
How do you treat a dear friend who betrays you? How do you respond when someone who you mentored for three years and with whom you shared amazing experiences; eating, teaching and travelling together, turns around, and flat out denies you?
One can fully understand mercy as a response, but tenderness?
When we forgive people who have betrayed us as badly as Peter did Jesus, we often do it grudgingly, knowing full well that unless we forgive them, we ourselves stand condemned. So we forgive, but the last thing on our mind is to be tender. We might instead avoid them, or just try to get along, but we don’t pursue them as the Lord did Peter and tenderly ask, “lovest thou me?”
What is amazing about grace is how it lavishes tenderness on the most undeserving of us. Think of the vile criminal that was crucified next to the Lord, and to whom the Lord promised a seat at the table in his kingdom the same day. Who treats a criminal with such consideration? Should it not suffice that he is even allowed in the kingdom at all? But it is different with the Lord.
And the Lord will have us busy spreading this difference in the world. Paul, writing from the prison to the believers at Ephesus said, “become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.”
When we think of the tender mercies of God expressed through the death (while we were yet sinners) of Christ on the cross; when the love of God has been so “shed abroad in our hearts” even hardship of prison life is unable to harden our hearts.
If we, however, search our hearts and find not this tenderness; if we find instead hardness, we must turn to the Lord and cry out for his help. We must hold steadfastly to his promise, which says… “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
Dear father, help me to be tenderhearted even towards those that I think don’t deserve it.