Tough and Tender

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:43-45

Ancient Japanese sword makers perfected the art of making a weapon that will retain a sharp edge, but that won’t break in battle. It’s a more difficult challenge than it may sound at first.

Hard steel will preserve a sharp edge. However, those swords were so brittle that they tended to break when they clashed in battle. Soft steel is not as brittle, but easily dulls and becomes unable to cut through armor.

To solve the problem, Japanese sword makers learned to make a sword both of hard and soft steel. They developed a forging process whereby up to 33,000 paper thin sheets of hard and soft steel are heated, folded, and alternately layered on top of one another. By melding softness and hardness, they created a sword with extreme pliability as well as a blade that will retain a sharp edge.

Someone once told me that a pastor needs “a tough hide and a tender heart.” I’ve learned that’s true. Most pastors will tell you that rarely a week goes by that they aren’t criticized for something, usually by the people for whom they are pouring out their hearts. It requires a certain toughness to receive criticism without growing defeated or discouraged. By the same token, ministry requires keeping a heart that is tender toward the things of the Spirit of God and the hurts and cares of people.

Beyond pastors and other ministers, there must be a melding between hardness and softness in the life of every believer in Christ.

We must have a steely resolve to stand firm for God’s righteousness. 

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3).

We also must have a tender heart of grace for those who need forgiveness.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32).

We must be tough enough to endure persecution. 

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3).

We also must have a gentle spirit of compassion even for those who despise us for our faith. 

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44).

Pray that God will give you the right combination of sharpness and suppleness today.

Have a great day, and keep moving forward!