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About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 4
Four Relationships Great Marriages Have in Common
We’ve all heard or read news stories that celebrate couples who’ve been married for 5, 6, or even 7 decades. So how did they stay together that long? What’s their secret? And better yet… how can we build those types of lasting bonds? Through the 4th volume of our Keeping Love Alive series, Chip’s identifying 4 relationships great marriages have in common. Learn why these connections are critical to every relationship and how you and your spouse can better prioritize them in your marriage - starting today.More from this series
And, third, we are in part three. You need and I need an intimate relationship with Christ’s body. Great marriages are characterized by close, personal relationships with fellow believers that provide love, support, accountability, fun, and opportunities to minister and be ministered to by one another’s gifts and resources.
Great marriages have that. Translation: Marriage is not a solo endeavor. We all need friends, mentors, and other couples to help us remain faithful to Christ and to one another. The answer to what feels impossible that you can’t figure out, God’s answer almost always, is a gifted person.
We read it earlier in Romans 12. We belong to one another. We need one another. The principle: The seeds of a fruitful marriage require the soil of authentic community. The seeds – what – here’s what some of you don’t get. The experience you have right now are all the seeds you planted last year and the year before and the year before and the year before and the year before. And they are all just growing up. And some of them are growing up with really good fruit and some with some really ugly fruit.
But the seeds you start planting now; you never reap in the same season that you sow. If you start new patterns, start new habits, start to make changes, I mean, would you think a farmer would go, “Okay, someone said these seeds are really good. I put them in the ground, I put some dirt over them, there’s a lot of sunshine, there’s fertilizer and I water them.” I come back in two days. See? They don’t work. They just don’t work.” Come back in a week; they don’t work. Come back in two months. “Oh, it’s just a little plant. It doesn’t work.”
But what would a farmer say? “Mmm, looks like it’s right on time! It takes about four months for them to get up here, and in the fall this happens, and the bud happens, and - That’s how life works. And so, where and what are you going to sow? Because that’s what you’re going to reap. The seeds of a fruitful marriage need the soil of authentic community. And what I mean by “authentic community” is those kind of relationships that give you life. The kind that tell you the truth. The kind that you can have fun with. The kind that you laugh with and you laugh with in different ways than anyone else. The kind that you can just totally be you. The kind that privately you can share your deepest struggles and your deepest fears and they are with you and they are for you.
If you don’t have that, you will not make it. You’ll medicate yourself, you’ll run to escapes, you’ll put up walls, you’ll run and hide, you’ll eat, you’ll buy things, you’ll drink too much.
We all have issues. God has a gifted person who is made to love and support you and you have been made, not to just get, but to give and in ways that I don’t understand. According to Jesus, “Give and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap. For whatever measure,” the size of what you give out to others, “so it will be returned to you.”
Now, I understand that when you have heard that verse in church, the pastor in many cases is going to talk about money and how money works. It’s Luke 6:38; look it up. It’s not a financial passage. It’s a kingdom passage. There are certain ways the world works and there are certain ways the kingdom works and it’s just the opposite. When you’re lonely and don’t have a friend, go be a friend. When you’re struggling and depressed, I have a little formula, go get on the treadmill, then get sweaty, get the endorphins going. Number two, I don’t feel like it. Sing songs to Jesus and start thanking Him, whether you feel like it or not. And number three, find someone who has bigger problems than you and go help them right away. And guess what – bam! You break through.
How do you develop relationships in the body of Christ that are really authentic, real community? I’m going to suggest three things. Number one, an awareness of our need for others. The writer of the Hebrews, writing to a group of people that were drifting. Man, they were on fire for God at one point, it’s a mixed group of people, and they are drifting. And he’s going to remind them of all the superiority of Christ, then the law, and the priests, and all the rest. The whole Old Testament economy.
And in chapter 3, he tells them, “But encourage one another daily as long as it’s still called today so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” I memorized it in a slightly different translation, “But encourage one another day after day as long as it’s called today, lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Well, you know, how long is it called today? Every day you wake up.
In our flesh and in our humanity, we will drift and sin is deceitful. And it starts with tiny little compromises. And the tiny little compromises start to harden your heart. And then you harden your heart, and then you are insensitive to the Holy Spirit. And you’re insensitive to the words and the life of others. And over time, then, you just drift.
And, by the way, notice it says when you’re deceived. When you’re drifting, you’re absolutely sure you’re not. I’m good! Hey, I’m good! I’m okay. I’m watching online. Everything is okay.
And then when you do get with people that you have been close to in the past, you start to be superficial. And they ask some penetrating questions and there are little things you start to do privately that you know are not right and it grow and it grows. And then you start feeling this discrepancy between who you project and who you really are.
I have had just so many heartbreaking experiences. I remember a young family that was, they had a radical conversion and three small kids and within eight or ten years just became, like, the dream you would have. And as their kids hit the teenage years, a couple of them were really gifted, athletically. And pretty soon it was one traveling team, then it was another traveling team, and then they were missing church quite a bit. And they were leading a small group but they didn’t have time to do that. And, “It’s just a season. And we want to be with our kids.” And pretty soon, it was soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer, soccer.
And I said, “Hey, man, bro, I’m, man, I mean, I love sports. I coached. And I think your priorities are a bit out of…” “Oh, you just don’t understand. I think my son is going to get a scholarship.” “Well, he might.”
I don’t know where his kids are. He’s not walking with God, the marriage didn’t work out, they drifted, life fell apart. And he was convinced everything was okay.
A young couple I was mentoring, I mean, started in the big ministry in our church, young, godly, and the things are closed down, they watched online for a little while and they have some small kids. So, it’s hard to – it was really hard. I get it’s really hard.
And it was four months, then it was six months, then it was eight months. And then all of a sudden, I saw values change. Then I saw some conflict in their marriage. And then I saw issues I thought, Oh man.
And they – drifting – they just didn’t know it. By God’s grace, man, He intervened. And, boy, they have plugged in and they are kind of restoring those habits around the table where you talk and you pray and you spend time with one another.
No one is immune. No one is immune. Not me, not you, not anyone. But if you don’t have close relationships, if you don’t absolutely know, “I need people,” then you won’t take the initiative. And it has never been easier to get isolated than right now, isn’t it?
I mean, it’s crazy. Part of my discouragement, and I’ll tell you, I’ve had a few times I got really, really down.
And uhm, boy, I had to take some drastic measures to say, “I have to connect with some people.” With some, in my case, some men that I can really share my heart and do life with.
The second do you have a real friend who will guard your heart and your life? I didn’t ask if you’re in a small group. I think it’s important. I didn’t ask if you’re watching online. I think that’s important if you can’t meet. Do you have a real friend? I mean, a real friend? Someone who loves you enough to accept you no matter what happens and someone who loves you enough to tell you the truth when they just care?
Someone who will make time? Everybody is busy. They’ll make time. And you make time for them. And I am convinced that every man needs a couple men like that in your life. And every woman needs a couple women like that. Second, to have those kind of relationships, notice the word was “intimate relationships.” What I wanted to get you to see is it’s connectedness, it’s from the heart.
There’s a process to follow. Romans chapter 12, in verses 9 through 13, I believe the apostle Paul actually gives clarity to what authentic community is. He says, “Let love without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
I wish I could unpack all of that. But there’s four very clear triads. And what he says in the first triad, “Let love be without hypocrisy,” literally, it’s: let love be without a mask. The word was used in the Greek culture for they would have Greek plays or theatre. And all the actors were male. And you would learn to throw your voice and sound like a man or a woman, old or young. And they would wear a costume and they would have a mask. And they would come out and they could hold the mask and be this person. And then go back and change and put on a different mask. That’s this word. Let love be without a mask.
Abhor what is evil. The word “abhor” – I did a little word study. It’s like if you have been gone on vacation or out of town or you forgot and there’s a milk carton in there and it’s been there for, like, six weeks. And you’re not even sure how long it has been. And you make the mistake of opening it up and you stick your nose in it and you just want to throw up after you smell it? That’s this word. Not play around with evil, not tolerate evil, not make excuses about evil, not drift into evil, not flirt with evil. “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Because here’s the deal: The first aspect of authentic community is the real you has to show up. The authentic, who-you-really-are. And if you’re hiding sin, then you’ll put on a mask.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor. The real you. And then notice, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, giving preference to one another in honor.” That word “devoted” is like, I mean, I am for you. I’ve got your back. You guys understand this. I would lay down my life for you. That’s that word “in brotherly love.”
It’s give preference and honor. I want your success more than my success. This is radical Christianity. So, authentic community is the real you meeting real needs, not superficial ones. Not the ones that, you know, “Well, I can do this on the way home.” Or, one of the tricks I used to play is, you know what? I don’t really want to talk to so-and-so, but I want them to think I kind of care, and I do kind of care, but there’s sort of extra grace required. And I don’t really want to be devoted to them and they kind of bother me. So, I’m going to give them a call and I hope they don’t answer so I can leave a message. And the message goes something like, “Hey! So sorry I missed you. Wish that we connect. Hope everything is okay. See you!”
Has anyone else ever done that? And what you’re really trying to do is just sort of manage the relationships, but I don’t want to be devoted to them. And you can’t be devoted to everyone, so you don’t have to feel guilty. But be honest. The real you shows up to meet real needs. I mean, it’s when you give money away that you can’t give away, but their needs are so great, you give it to them. It’s when you don’t have time and you’re under pressure and you understand they are in crisis and you give time.
That’s what builds those kind of relationships. The real you meeting real needs. And then, for the right reason. It says, what does it say? “Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” See, sometimes in the body of Christ we get a lot of strokes. You know, I show up for this or I do that. “You’re so wonderful.” Not lagging behind. The word for “diligent” is follow up, follow through. Fervent in spirit. We get our word water coming up to a boil.
It’s a picture of this energetic, enthusiastic person who is doing what they do in the body of Christ, serving the Lord. I’m not doing this for men’s approval. The real you meeting real needs for the right reason. And then in the right way.
Those last triads, actually, this is about five small chapters in this book on Experiencing Authentic Community. In the right way, there’s an upward focus. Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.
I’m going to find my joy not in my circumstances. My ultimate hope is there’s a heaven, it’s real, I’ve got promises, I have a Savior no matter what is happening. I’m going to persevere. That means hupomeno. That’s the word. It means being under pressure and refusing to give up. Resilience in tribulation. And how? With desperate dependency. I’m devoted to prayer. It’s the same word. I’m devoted. I can’t make it. God, I need You.
And then notice there’s the outward focus. “Contributing to the needs of the saints?” That word means you’re actually giving money to other Christians that have financial need.
Practicing hospitality, literally, it comes from our word for pursuing strangers. Hospitality is, you know, you walk into a room and it doesn’t take long at a party or a group and you just realize, Boy, those two people feel completely out of it. Or, This person is marginalized. Or they get pushed to the side. Or they are not as attractive. The body reaches out to those kind of people and says, “Hey, do you want to come over and sit with us? I want you to know someone cares about you.”
Didn’t Jesus do that? He touches a leper, there’s a woman whose son is dead and He touches the coffin. The Jesus who loves you is moved deeply in His heart when He sees someone’s sin or sees someone’s suffering. He just is compelled to want to help you and to love you and to move into your life.
And He wants to give you His eyes, that you would see marginalized people the way He sees them. And it wouldn’t be just writing a check or talking about how terrible this is or that is. You would activate in small ways and in big ways.
And what I will tell you is when the real you meets real needs for the right reason in the right way, you will experience this supernatural thing called authentic community where you are deeply loved not for what you do. You are deeply loved not for what people think you are. You are not deeply loved for how you look or what you have. You are deeply loved for you.
And, you know, the human heart has been made in desperate, desperate need to have someone love you just for you. And that’s the body. And if you don’t, if you’re not aware that you need people and if you don’t practice authentic community, this process, you will drift or you will fake it.
Once you get in patterns, you know, the Bible word, you don’t hear it anymore, it’s called sloth. It’s called sloth. It’s one of the big sins in the Bible, but we don’t talk about it. Sloth is simply this: It’s the opposite of being disciplined.
Discipline is doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
God prompts you and says, “You know what? You need to share Christ with so-and-so. He’s hurting, I know he’s an outcast, I know he has a different sexual preference than you, I know there’s a lot of stigma to it. But he is desperately in pain and shame and hurt and he needs you to break the barrier with him.” Or you to break the barrier with her and look into their eyes, regardless of their orientation, and let them understand there is someone that understands and someone that loves them and you want to introduce them to the One that can meet their deepest needs.
And so, what I’m saying is God wants you to be His body. Jesus lives inside of you. So, you’re in desperate need of love and you’re actually in more desperate need to give love.
The third thing you need is a weekly practice. There are certain rhythms in Scripture. Again, the Hebrews, chapter 10, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,” because they were wavering. “For He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how,” in other words: Let’s think up ways. Let’s conjure up ways. Let’s have brainstorming about ways to stimulate one another to love and to good deeds. “Not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some. But encouraging one another all the more,” – why? “as we see the day approaching.”
He is coming back. History, you understand, is not Eastern Mysticism. It’s not a circle. It’s not endless circles. History is linear. There was a beginning; it was called creation. And God spoke and it came into existence. And there are ups and downs and a plan and for the Old Testament history. And then Jesus came and He launched the Church and He is coming back and there’s a day where everyone in all the world will stand before a holy God. And every knee will bow before Jesus and say He’s Lord of lords and King of kings. And those who we have not cared about or stiff-armed God will be apart from Him.
And every believer, you and I, will, not for our salvation, but we will stand before what is called the Bema Seat and I’m going to give an account to Jesus Christ, “What did you do, Chip, with the time, the money, the gifts, the education, and the opportunity that I gave to you?”
You do understand that the top one percent of all the people in the world, if you make fifty thousand dollars a year, you’re in the top one percent of the economy of all the world. There’s a whole third of the world that lives on a couple bowls of rice or two or three dollars a day. The goal is not to make you feel guilty. The goal is to say you’re a steward. You’re a steward. I’m a steward. You should enjoy every good thing God has given you.
But you should also radically be sacrificial with a global view to say, “God, I had this little thing called time. And there’s this long thing called eternity. And what I do in time determines a lot of what happens in eternity.”
Here’s my question: Do you believe in the supernatural and do you believe in the reality of heaven and the promises of Jesus? Either you do or you don’t. But it’s not an intellectual question. My behavior and your behavior will demonstrate whether we believe that or not. And God is telling me and He’s telling you, “Guess what, Chip, you can’t do that without a life-giving relationship with Me. And you can’t do that without a genuine love for yourself of who I made you to be and seeing yourself the way I see you. And you’ll never do that by yourself. You are so desperate for other men and other couples,” and you women for other women, to do life in such an authentic way that we are stimulating, spurring one another on.
I mean, haven’t we all been around some people that walk really closely with God and you end the evening and you get in your car and you’re driving home and there’s just something about your time with them that – I have a mentor named Glen. And he started a bunch of orphanages in Zimbabwe and he’s an old basketball coach and every time I’m with Glen, I want to be more like Jesus. He’s so soaked in God’s Word. He’s, like, seventy-eight. And it’s like, “Now Chip, when are you going to go and do another pastor’s conference with me in Zimbabwe? I just can’t wait to go.
And, you know, most people at seventy-eight are thinking, “My social security check was late this month! Hey, Ethel? You know, I love our small group because we really get to pray. Ethel, tell us, what’s with you?” “My hip is really burdened. My hip is bothering me a lot. How are you?” “How about you, Mary Jane?” “Well, my knee replacement isn’t doing so well and my great-great-grandson, he’s, I think he’s going the other direction. I’m not sure. And -
God forgive us. Can I just ask you and challenge you? Will you not be that? Would you be that person when people get in a car or they leave your home or your group and they say, “Boy, they sure don’t have it all together, but there’s a passion, there’s something about them. There’s this hunger, there’s this concern, there’s something that they have that I want more of.”
And if they had time, they’d recognize it’s just a lot of Jesus. A lot of Jesus in your personality, a lot of Jesus in your values, a lot of Jesus in your priorities, a lot of Jesus in your calendar. And you’re not religious and you’re not quirky and you’re not judgmental, you’re just authentic. But you have to have a weekly practice. There’s got to be a rhythm.
And so the question: Are you being a passive or active member of God’s family? And I get it couldn’t be more hard than it has been in the last couple years. But I just still want you to ask it. I just, I’m seeing all kind of people that used to be active and they are just passive now. And they’ve got all kind of excuses.
I mean, there are people that should not be in church that have health issues, or that are older, or that have issues. And absolutely. You know? And then there are the other ninety-five percent that, “I can watch online later and I’m playing golf with my friends.” “I can just have a cup of coffee and put my feet up and I’m listening to so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so, and so-and-so.”
And I’m thinking, Yeah, well, I hope those guys on video you are listening to when you have cancer show up at your door. And I hope they knock on your door and say, “You know, I know it has been a lot of video, but I just, I’d like to give you a hug and tell you that God really loves you and could we maybe have a meal together?” I’ve got news for you, that doesn’t happen.
I’m all for, I’m one of those people that people listen to, so I’m not against any of that, right? What I’m talking about is there is no substitute for face-to-face, heart-to-heart, I love you, you love me, this is where I’m hurting, this is where you’re hurting. I don’t know if I can make it any longer.” “I don’t know if I can make it any longer. Let’s do this together.” That’s what we need.
What must we believe about God for that to occur? I think the most important thing is just His love. And I think we’ve got this crazy idea that love is like this ethereal something that is floating out somewhere and we hope it just comes and lands on me, “Oh! I feel God’s love! I feel God’s love!”
Now, you know what? I’ve had a couple mystical experiences, and I have some friends that had some very mystical experiences where, in just shattering, terrible times, they have actually felt the physical hands of God around them. But ninety-nine point eight percent of the time, you’re going to experience God’s love and His hug and His words of life through a mortal body in whom Jesus lives, called another person.
In fact, this isn’t Chip, this is – “My commandment is this,” this is Jesus speaking and it’s the last night that He will be alive on this earth, “love each other,” – how? “as I have loved you.” How was that? Oh, when it was convenient, when I felt like it, when it worked out in my schedule, when… “I want you to love the way I loved you.” “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” And, by the way, I think in some ways, it would be easier to have one great act of moment of lay down your life physically than it is to lay down your life over and over and over and over and over and over to put the needs of others ahead of yourself.
And if that’s true for people outside your family, be careful, here it comes, alright? Be careful. What would it look like for you to have that attitude toward your mate? What would it look like in obedience to God, regardless of what is going on or where you have been, to lay down your life for your mate as an offering to God?
That’s what Jesus did. He laid down His life for you as an offering and aroma to the Father. “You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from My Father, I have made known to you.” Do you hear the intimacy, do you hear the authenticity?
I mean, this is the God of the universe. “You’re My friends. You didn’t choose Me; I chose you.” And there’s a mission, “I appointed you that you would go and bear fruit,” and what kind? “Fruit that will remain.” Why? “So that whatever you ask in My name, the Father will give you.”
And I think when you have those kind of relationships and that kind of focus, the kind of things the early Church asked, “Oh, Lord, we see these brutal Romans taking these little children and they put them on the dump heap because there might be a small defect, or because it’s a girl and they wanted a boy,” and it was legal. “God, would You hear our prayer and we are going to take them. And we don’t have enough food to take care of our own kids, but we are going to take them.”
Three pandemics in the first three hundred years of the Church, “Oh, God, would You preserve our life?” Major cities were completely wiped out. Rodney Stark in talking about the rise of Christianity, he’s a sociologist, I have no idea where he’s coming from spiritually. But he charts three major pandemics that happened in the first three hundred years.
And he said, “I mean, hundreds of thousands of people died. But the rich could flee to the hills. And the only people left in the cities were Christians. And when they died bringing others back to health, they were literally called martyrs.” And so, I mean, like, the New York Citys of the day, the San Franciscos, the LAs, the Shanghais of the day. People would come back and the only people left were those that were nursed back to health by Christians, or Christians that survived it.
And he says, “That is why, by 313 A.D., there were sixty million people in the Roman Empire and thirty-three million of that sixty million professed to follow Jesus. It’s our radical love, people. Our radical love for each other, our radical love for those that don’t have. “This is My command: Love each other.”
You know, you’ve got grown kids and you’ve got grandkids. And I don’t know about you, do you ever just feel like, I don’t know really know what to pray? But you want to pray something that is significant. Colossians 1, Philippians 1, Ephesians 1, and Ephesians 3 are prayers in the Bible. And I just don’t know any better. And so, I’ll often, “God, I bow my knees before the Father in heaven who knows all things. And I am going to ask You now for Annie and Jason and Eric and Ryan and for their mates and all my grandkids, would You strengthen them today in their inner man so that they might be able to comprehend the height and the depth and the length and the width and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Lord, would You do that today?” Guess what, He’ll answer that. He’ll answer that.
The second thing we need to know is His humility. “Now that I your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
It’s humility. Do you realize He washed Judas’ feet? See, we have got this, “Well, I’ll wash people’s feet that I respect.” “I’ll start loving him when he starts loving me.” “Well, I’ll become more affectionate when he gets off the blankety-blank sofa.” Or TV, or his gaming, or work. And so, we keep waiting for the other person to make the radical move.
At one point, I memorized lots of Scripture, but it probably wasn’t for all the right reasons. I literally got to where if it was a cool passage, I memorized it. Because when I memorized Scripture, I didn’t understand how it worked, I didn’t understand renewing your mind, all I knew was my motives changed, my desires changed, and things changed more rapidly and God – I heard His voice like never before as I memorized Scripture.
And so, I started with a few verses and then I did a few chapters and then I did a few small books. And I don’t say that to impress you, I just say if you binge on Netflix and if you do social media, you’re going to be the product of Netflix and social media.
Hey, watch a good movie, check something out on Facebook here and there, but let me tell you, take classic passages – Romans 12, Colossians 3, the Sermon on the Mount – and it’ll take a little while and because your brain is kind of foggy and it has gotten really lazy.
Remember when you could remember phone numbers? All you can say is, “Siri, call so-and-so,” or, “Alexa, do this,” or, “Alexa, do that.” That convenience is costing you some things. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it, I’m just saying compensate.
If you took fifteen minutes before you went to bed and you just keep reading that passage over. And then you look at it and you sort of try and say it to yourself and you can’t get it and you peek and you peek. And you do that just before you go to bed, your sleep will change. Your mind will change. God will speak in your subconscious. And then, pretty soon, you have a chapter here and then you have something else here. And then pretty soon, when you wake up, you know, God will bring this to your mind or that to your mind.
And this is a passage that I memorized just because I thought it was cool. And it was probably a decade later as I studied it, I realized there are only two places in the universe where God dwells in His fullness. Think of that. Only two places in the universe where God can be all that He wants to be.
One of them is in heaven, because it’s an absolute perfect environment with angels and seraphim praising and honoring Him. Listen to Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is holy, ‘I dwell on a high and holy place and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit.’” Why? “In order to revive the spirit of the lowly,” literally, the broken, the hurting, the wounded. “And to revive the heart of the contrite.” When you come to God and peel back all the junk and I – and broken – He will, whoosh, rush to meet you.
Gentle and Lowly – is a book by Dane Ortlund about the heart of Christ. And I want to close with an excerpt from it. It just keeps opening my eyes to how much God loves me.
“In other words, when Hebrews 5:2 says that Jesus can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward, the point is that Jesus deals gently and only gently with all sinners who come to Him, irrespective of their particular offense. What elicits tenderness from Jesus is not the severity of the sin, but whether the sinner comes to Him. Whatever our offense, He deals gently with us. If we never come to Him, we will experience a judgement so fierce it will be like a double-edged sword coming out of His mouth at us – and he quotes some passages.
“If you do come to Him as fierce as His lion-like judgement would have been against us, so deep will be His lamb-like tenderness for us. We will be enveloped in one or the other. To no one will Jesus be neutral. Consider what all this means. When we sin, we are encouraged to bring our mess to Jesus because He will know just how to receive us. He doesn’t handle it roughly, He doesn’t scowl, He doesn’t scold, He doesn’t lash out the way many of our parents did.
“And all of this restraint on His part is not because He has a deluded view of our sinfulness. He knows our sinfulness far more deeply than we do. Indeed, we are aware of just the tip of the iceberg of our depravity, even in our most searching moments of self-knowledge. His restraint simply flows from His tender heart for His people. Hebrews is not telling us that instead of scolding us, Jesus loves us. It’s telling us the kind of love He has, rather than dispensing grace to us from on high, He gets down with us, He puts His arm around us, He deals with us in the way that is just what we need. He deals with us always gently. Jesus described Himself as gentle and lowly.”
When hard times come, isolation and secrecy are the enemy’s greatest weapons. We need each other.