A Tender Heart and a Humble Mind

A Tender Heart and a Humble Mind

My wife and I recently were reading in the New Testament book of First Peter. We came to verse 8 of chapter 3. The final words of this verse really stuck with me: “Have…love for one another, a tender heart and a humble mind.” It struck me this is not what we are seeing these days in American politics and American life. Instead, unfortunately, we often see near-hatred for one another and, as a result, hard hearts and arrogant minds.

By a tender heart Peter meant that we have great compassion for people, not that we are open and tolerant to all ideas and behaviors, no matter how destructive. And by a humble mind, Peter meant that the greatness of God and our smallness and sinfulness should cause us never to overestimate how smart we are.  He did not mean that we can never say that anything is true, particularly the things of God that have been revealed to us in scripture. How do I know this? Because of the way Peter begins his letter. Read with me:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (I Peter 1:3-5, NRSV)

What is Peter saying in this introduction to this letter where he later emphasizes humility and compassion?

--He is saying that God is a relational God and that this God is the Father of Jesus Christ.
--He is saying that Jesus is Messiah (Christ) and Lord (God)
--He is saying that Jesus was raised from death, that this event creates intense hope for those
   who trust in Christ, and that this hope makes those who share it have a new quality of life which he
   calls being “born anew.”
--He is saying that those who share the hope of God and of Jesus have an eternal inheritance
   waiting for us in heaven, and that God is protecting us until that time. 

Peter is saying that Jesus is the truth, and that Jesus has been revealed to him, Peter. It sounds like Peter feels he has the answers (or rather The Answer, Jesus). Why then the emphasis on humility and gentleness of heart?

I think there are three reasons:

First of all Peter, does not believe that he has found The Answer (Jesus). Rather he believes that The Answer has found him. That is profoundly humbling.

Secondly the Jesus whom Peter now knows to be the Answer is the One who, according to Paul, was equal to God but “emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant” and “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8, NRSV.) If Jesus humbled himself by becoming human and dying on a cross, how can those who claim to be his followers be arrogant and proud?

Finally love for one another (I Peter 3:8) should result in a tender heart (same verse). God is love, and Jesus is the heart of God’s love.  Sometimes when we have been hurt, perhaps in an attempt to shield ourselves from further hurt, we allow our hearts to grow hard and our love to grow cold. But though he was rejected and even crucified, Jesus never did that. His heart did not grow hard. It remained tender. His love did not grow cold. It remained a blazing flame of love.

How can his followers not have tender hearts? How can they not be consumed by a fire of love for others?


Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at wrjones2002@gmail.com. This column first appeared in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News. 

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