Live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness. Tenderness awakens within the security of knowing we are thoroughly and sincerely liked by someone… Scripture suggests that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by tenderness.
With the help of grace, the habit of saying kind words is very quickly formed, and when once formed, it is not speedily lost. Sharpness, bitterness, sarcasm, acute observation, divination of motives, – all these things disappear when a man is earnestly conforming himself to the image of Christ Jesus. The very attempt to be like our dearest Lord is already a well-spring of sweetness within us, flowing with an easy grace over all who come within our reach.
If you, your heart, your will, are enlisted on the good side, if you are wishing and trying that the good in you should conquer the bad, then you are on the side of God Himself, and God is on your side; and “if God be for us, who shall be against us?” Take courage, then. If thou dislikest thy sins, so does God. If thou art fighting against thy worst feelings, so is God. On thy side is God who made all, and Christ who died for all, and the Holy Spirit who alone gives wisdom purity, nobleness. How canst thou fail when He is on thy side? On thy side are all spirits of just men made perfect, all wise and good souls in earth and heaven, all good and wholesome influences, whether of nature or of grace, of matter or of mind. How canst thou fail if they are on thy side?
It is… of supreme importance that we consent to live not for ourselves but for others. When we do this we will be able first of all to face and accept our own limitations. As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement. But if we live for others, we will gradually discover that no one expects us to be ‘as gods’. We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives. It is because of them that we need others and others need us. We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.
The first service one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love of God begins in listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but lends us His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him.
We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need – regardless of race, politics, class, and religion – is your neighbour. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbour, and you must love your neighbour.
When those on his right hand asked in surprise, “When? Where?,” he answered, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25: 34–40). With that we face the shocking reality. Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He asks for help in the form of a beggar, a down-and-out, a man in ragged clothes, someone who is sick, even a criminal in need of our love. He meets you in every person you encounter in need. So long as there are people around, Christ walks the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls to you, demands of you, makes claims upon you.