“Christ… is our life… Christ is all and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity (love), which is the bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:4,12-14).
Here is one of the great basic truths of Christianity. The Christian has Christ as his life. Christ is all, not simply is his all, but Christ is all. There is no true Christian character at all in our life except only as Christ, who is our life, produces it. The stream flows out in our manners and actions but the spring is Christ Himself, who is our life, dwelling within the heart by faith. Therefore it goes without saying that this life in us should be characterised by that same divine tenderness that was ever seen in Him as He walked down here in this scene. What is this list here— bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forgiveness, love —if not a perfect portrait of Christ? And this is presented here as being what the Christian is to put on and display in his walk and ways for Christ is his life. It was natural for Christ, for it is His nature. It is not natural in the Christian; it is something he has to put on by surrendering himself fully to Christ and letting Him take over our life fully into His own hands and reproduce there His own character of divine tenderness. It is much easier to convince one of his natural sinfulness than to convince one of his natural hardness and utter destitution of heavenly and divine tenderness. The very essence of the new life is a divinely imparted tenderness and sweetness of spirit. Without this, even the most strict Christian life is a misrepresentation of Christ, who is our life.
Even among intensely devoted Christians nothing is more rare to find than a continuous, all pervading spirit of tenderness. Tenderness of spirit is preeminently divine. It is not the delicacy and soft sensibility of a mere gentle make-up which some persons naturally possess, neither is it the courtesy of manner which results from high culture and beautiful social training, though these are valuable in life. It is a supernatural work throughout the whole spiritual being. It is an exquisite interior fountain of God’s own tenderness opened up in the inner-man inundating the soul, saturating the manners, words, and tones of the voice: refining and moulding the whole being after the image of Him who was infinitely meek and lowly in heart. It cannot be borrowed, or put on for special occasions; it is emphatically supernatural, and must flow out incessantly from the inner fountains of a life of intimate fellowship with the meek and lowly Jesus. Without this Christ-like tenderness of spirit, the most vigorous life of righteousness and good works, rigid purity of morals, missionary zeal, profuse liberality, ascetic self-denial and blameless conduct utterly fail to display the spirit of Christ.
It is impossible to see the infinite excellence and necessity of real heavenly tenderness of heart unless it is specially revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. What inexpressible tenderness and gentleness of nature were always seen in Christ. What beauty is to the rainbow, what perfume is to the rose, what harmony is to music, all this and much more is what tenderness of heart is to Christianity. Without tenderness of heart the most intensely righteous and devoted life is without beauty and attractiveness. It is possible to be very, very devoted, staunch, persevering in all Christian duties, bravely defending the truth, mathematically orthodox, blameless in outward life, and very zealous in good works, and yet to be greatly lacking in tenderness of heart that all-subduing love, which incessantly showed itself in the eyes, voice and, ways of the Lord Jesus.
Many Christians seem loaded with good fruits, but the fruit tastes green; it lacks flavor and mellowness. There is a touch of vinegar in their sanctity. Their purity has an icy coldness to it. Their personal testimonies are straight and definite, but they lack that tenderness of love. Their-prayers are intelligent, and strong and pointed, but they lack heart piercing pathos. They speak eloquently and explain with utmost nicety but they lack that love that sighs and weeps,—that all-consuming love. Real tenderness of spirit is seldom acquired except through suffering. It matters not what shape the trial may be, whether an unutterable sorrow for sin, or extreme poverty, or great physical pain, or relentless persecution, or the wear and tear of a thousand daily annoyances, or the agony of unrequited love, of life-long loneliness, or
heart-breaking disappointment, these or any other forms of sorrow may be the means of producing in a soul that is in communion with Christ this heavenly tenderness.
Divine tenderness of heart has a behavior which is heavenly. It feels for the poor, seeks to deliver the oppressed, enlightens the deceived, lifts up the fallen, restores the erring, recovers the straying. 0It instinctively avoids wounding the feelings of others by talking on unpleasant things, wrangling in an argumentative way, referring to painful and mortifying subjects. It cannot scold, or scowl, or threaten, though it will not fail to give an earnest and loving warning or reproof when necessary. It does not quarrel. It instinctively buries and forgets all bad things. It feels all things from God’s standpoint, and lives but to receive and transmit the spotless sympathies and affections of the Lord Jesus. It understands the words of the Holy Spirit, “Be ye tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour” (Eph. 4:31, 32; 5:2).
Again it enters into the feeling of the Apostle when he entreats the believers, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). Tenderness and gentleness are the characteristics of the new nature. Lowliness, forgiving, and forbearance are the behavior of the divine nature so fully manifested in Christ. “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).
Unknown Author (From “Grace and Truth”, June 1949)