“Stand strong with a soft heart.”
I read this quote a few weeks ago and it hasn’t strayed far from my mind since. How do we stand strong but keep a soft heart. How do I do this? How do we disagree with people we love on issues both big and small and believe the best of them? How do we find ways to stand for what we believe to be true and still end each day loving those that disagree with us the same way we had loved them the day before. How do we keep our hearts soft toward each other and not become jaded and full of hate? How do we stand like stone for justice and provide for the weary, the broken and the defenseless, but still be brought to tears by sorrow or hope or joy? How do we fight for those who can’t fight for themselves, and still weep with those who weep even if they aren’t on “our side”?
I don’t know. I’m grappling with this myself, but the only person who I know that has done this perfectly, once told this story. And some how I think there’s answers to these questions somewhere in here.
“There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.
“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’
“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
I remember coloring this exact picture sometime in my early child hood. Probably in sunday school somewhere in Boulder, Colorado. When it seemed so clear and easy.
But it isn’t clear and easy. Life and hearts are complicated and messy. And the problem is it’s so easy to say words and so much harder to do actions. Yet Brennan Manning’s famous quote haunts me & also holds me accountable “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
I’ve seen people on all sides of each of the discussions that are going on in our world today (immigration, sanctity of life – at all stages, refugees, people of color, security, freedoms, the future, fiscal responsibility, other belief systems, inherent rights, identities and orientations and the list goes on and on) lose sight of the human heart and life on the on the other side of the table or on the other side of the screen. And I know I’ve been both. I’ve been the one that wounds, and I’ve been the wounded. And I’m guessing you have too. But I’m trying to choose differently.
What does that look like for me? I’ll give my time and I’ll give my money. I’ll wear my t-shirts on my chest and my heart on my sleeve. I’ll have conversations, and I’ll take action.
And today I will try my best to stand strong with a soft heart.