Did you know that the Bible tells us to be “tenderhearted”? In Ephesians 4:32, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus to “be tenderhearted.” I have always thought of tenderheartedness as an undesirable quality like being too emotional. I guess growing up with four boys I always associated it with weakness or with those kind of overly-emotional people who always go up for prayer at the end of every service (you know what I'm talking about).
So I looked up the meaning of tenderhearted and it says “easily moved to love.” Wow. Easily moved to love. I am generally not a person easily moved to love. I confess that I often find it easier to move to new places by forming only shallow friendships with the people in my life. I often find it easier to cope with extreme poverty and suffering around me by not completely opening my heart to the peoples’ destitution. I often find it easier to pass by the beggar on the street by not allowing myself to sympathize with him in his brokenness.
To be tenderhearted is almost to guarantee that your heart will be wounded, that you will carry a burden not your own, that you will weep for a person you have never met, that you will allow a seemingly unimportant life to profoundly affect your own, and that you will be compelled to action – to stop, to speak, to give, to pray. But perhaps this pain, this inconvenience, this heartache that demands a response is the key to true fellowship in Christ and to truly impacting the world for Him.
In my devotional the other day, I read this quote, “No great achievement can be made, no lofty goal attained, nor anything of great value to the world accomplished except at the cost of the heart’s blood.”
This was really brought home to me recently by the life and example of one of the students in the English Language School here. He is a Brazilian missionary and works in the Amazonian jungles with unreached, primitive tribes who live in such remote areas that can only be reached by boat. He spends weeks and months going up and down the river in his boat taking mobile medical clinics, starting schools, and carrying the love of Christ to a people still untouched by civilization. Desiring to identify with them in every way, he has even chosen to dress as they do, wearing only a simple loin cloth. Although he cannot sufficiently express himself in English yet, every single time this man speaks about the “river people” you will see his eyes fill with water until it spills over into big tears running down his rough, sun-tanned cheeks. It is not weak or over-emotional in any way but rather a little glimpse of the incredible depth of real love this man feels for his people. And that, I believe, is what it truly means to “be tenderhearted.”