The week of my 33rd birthday, now just a few weeks past, I felt particularly drawn to this phrase. In fact, I believe this year, I am to pray, in the power of the Spirit, this reality into myself and into my family.
No one becomes tenderhearted without prayer, because being a tenderhearted person is impossible. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Soft hearts are not made by men, they are born by God through the new birth. And being created by the Spirit they can only be cultivated by the Spirit as well.
We hear from history of lionhearted men, but not often do we hear of tenderhearted men
The Greek Lexicon’s define tenderheartedness as compassionate. In Greek medicine tenderheartedness referred to having healthy bowels, which exposes the utterly personal inner-ness and surety of being externalized background for the word. Ray Ortlund spoke of it in this way: “It seems inescapable that this word describes a certain emotional tone, a softness of disposition, a heart that feels for others.” Tenderheartedness demands emotion, as it is not a cognitive attribute, but lies at the core of one’s heart and visibly overflows to others. In the New Testament the word is used twice demonstrating that a tenderhearted man is a kind, forgiving (Eph. 4:32), and humble man (1 Pe. 3:8).
Defining it is difficult, living it is harder, but it can only be properly defined by being lived. Therefore its easiest to point to a person. We hear from history of lionhearted men, but not often do we hear of tenderhearted men. Yet there was One.
The ultimate man of the tender-heart was Jesus. If King Richard of England had the lionheart, King Jesus had the tenderheart. Compassion was Jesus’ most distinct emotion in his earthly ministry, and forgiveness thundered from the cross louder than the hammered nails that hung him there. Humility characterized everything he did, as he came from the glory of heaven to the sin-cursed earth to serve and save sin-filled humanity. Jesus embodies and models the man of the tenderheart.
Being a hard man is easy. Sometimes the fact that life is hard, work is frustrating, marriage is difficult, and death is coming causes hardness to callous the heart. But this is not as it should be. Life, marriage, family, work, and death when shaped by the Spirit can make soft-light-tender-hearted men.
Using the example of marriage, Jesus himself said that the reason why marriage is hard and divorce exists is because the men that get married are hard-hearted (Mt. 19:8). Therefore marriage is a perfect place to find that you are not naturally tenderhearted, and when redeemed by Jesus is an ideal place to cultivate softheartedness. One of the reason marriage exists is to make men’s hearts soft and tender not hard and harsh.
This is what I strive to be in every area of my life. Being a man is a call to be soft, pliable and tender or to say it differently humble, forgiving, and compassionate. May God raise up more men in the church that when dead have the following listed on their tombstone:
Here lies ____________ the tenderhearted.