One of the most endearing love songs ever written was Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender. The lyrics, written in 1956 by Presley and Vera Matson, still stir hearts to acknowledge the need we have to give and receive tenderness and love. Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go. You have made my life complete, and I love you so.
True love has a tenderness that is only surpassed by God’s steadfast love and tenderness toward us, as recorded in Psalm 36:5, Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. The tender love of God melts the hardest heart. Just as tenderness in marriage cushions us against the harshness of the world, so the tenderheartedness of the Lord soothes away the sting of sin and shame. The tender heart of God is such a defining quality of His, and how could it not be, for, as 1 John 4:7 says, …love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
It’s pure and simple. God is love. He personifies love, and there is not a single human being who has ever modeled love on the earth to the degree that Jesus Christ did. The compassionate, tenderhearted love of God radiated from Jesus as He lived here. It drove Him to give His life for us. Amazing love, how can it be, that You, my King, should die for me? Amazing love, I know it’s true, and it’s my joy to honor You, in all I do, to honor You (Billy James Foote, You Are My King, 2003). God’s love truly is amazing.
The Apostle John began his letter with these words, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. He goes on to say, God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.
So the flip side of the tender love of God is our tender love of each other. Not ooey, gooey romantic love (although that’s a huge aspect of love in marriage, and God authored it), but tenderhearted, compassionate, merciful love for one another. In Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) we read, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. “Tenderhearted” here means compassionate, of good-heartedness, pitiful. It actually comes from a word that means of strong bowels, as in bowels of compassion. Peter explains it further…finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:8-9 NKJV).
Is that a tall order? Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling. To revile is to use abusive language toward someone. Abusive language is harsh and insulting speech. Part of showing the tender love of God is refraining from using harsh words because they injure the heart. Harsh words reflect a hard, not tender, heart.
Be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Paul’s instruction gives us the standard of forgiveness and tenderheartedness we are to adhere to: even as God in Christ forgave you. What Christ suffered because of the sin of mankind is of such magnitude that the sins we commit against each other cannot compare, and yet God, in Christ, forgave us and even died to cancel the great sin debt of man. How much more should we be willing to forgive each other, as we look to the example of amazing love our Savior displays!
A prayer for today: Make me tenderhearted, O Lord. As You love me tenderly, help me to reflect that tenderness to the hardest heart who may cross my path. Let those who challenge me be conquered by Your love flowing through me. Help me to “love them tender, love them sweet,” Amen.
© 2021, Chris Werre