Tenderhearted; Merciful; Grace-giving
Prayer: “It is one of the most difficult things that we, in our own human attitudes, can tackle, with the help of God. In our own callous hearts, our soul’s deepest desires are those we are afraid to relinquish. These are the burdens that the Lord wants. And these are the burdens that we should be praying for with and for one another. That is the tenderheartedness that the Lord seeks. Yet our longing hearts, in our fear of letting go, beg us to give these things to Him. He grieves as we don’t give them to Him. God’s joy comes in the morning, when we give our burdens up to the Lord and learn to love deeply and graciously, as He does with us. Tenderheartedly.”
“The heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity.” (J. Stowell, Fan the Flame, Moody 1986, p. 13)
18 But as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, in this manner you shall speak to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Concerning the words which you have heard— 19 because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the Lord. 20 Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place.” So they brought back word to the king.
This scripture refers to Josiah, King of Judah (2 Chronicles 34:1). Josiah’s heart was SO tender toward his people that when God pronounced judgment over them, he wept and tore his clothes before the Lord. And the Lord heard Josiah. Josiah grieved deeply and personally for the sins of others, the people of Judah. And as he cried out to God in prayer and grief, the Lord heard his prayers and answered them.
In modern-day culture, we would call this emotion empathy. But the Biblical meaning of “tenderhearted” goes beyond our modern-day perception of what empathy is. What do we think of when we hear ‘empathy’. How do we respond in empathy towards one another? Is it simply a thought that runs through our heads? Or do we take action for our brothers and sisters as we sense deeply and carry their burdens on ourselves?
The Hebrew word for “tenderhearted”, eusplagchnos, is found only in the Bible twice.
The Hebrew word, however, does not mean what we think it might mean. Eu means well. Splagchnon means bowel.
This word literally translates as having strong, healthy bowels. The inward organs were considered in those times to be the seat of emotion and intention. The word then means compassionate, easily moved to love, pity, or sorrow. It describes one having tender feelings for another. For example, the phrase “I felt it in the pit of my stomach” is a modern parallel.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)
1 Peter 3:8
“Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” (NLT)
So, the Greek word refers to that deep internal caring, comparable to the modern expressions such as “broken-hearted” or “gut-wrenching”. Splagchnon is the strongest Greek word for expressing compassionate love or tender mercy and involves one’s entire being. It describes compassion which moves a person to the very depths of their being. In the Gospels, apart from its use in parables, it is a word used ONLY for Jesus.
I want to be clear, carrying one another’s burdens does not mean that we must feel as if we’re carrying a weight for one another. Jesus himself said “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. There, also, is how we should be relating to our brothers and sisters, also saved in Christ and reconciled in relationship both vertically and horizontally. What I mean by this is that Christ not only came to reconcile us to himself, but also to one another. As we are all parts of one body, we must also recognize one another’s strengths, talents, faults, and struggles. It is our differences, our strengths and faults that make the body of Christ strong. But if we fail to walk in relationship with the Lord, none of these things matter. This is why we must care for one another by interceding for each other’s burdens.
Being tenderhearted leads to a grace-filled life. This is true not only for other people, but for ourselves as well. And because we are tenderhearted towards others, we have a greater understanding of God’s love and tenderheartedness for us. We understand how God grieves for us in our own sin. And this understanding (among other Spiritual disciplines) is what draws us closer in relationship with God.
Euspagchnos is not a word about conduct. It is about literally, your insides. Be well-disposed towards each other in your deepest innerbeing. It is the EXACT opposite of hypocrisy that acts tender and feels malice.
“Christians are to be noted for their tenderness of heart. They are to be full of deep and mellow affection, in opposition of that wrath and anger which they are summoned to abandon.” -John Zadie