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Soft Hearts, Hard Heads

Somebody observed that there is only one quality worse than hardness of heart, and that is softness of head. Most people who call themselves Christians would agree a hard heart is a bad thing, and rightfully so. We read that Jesus was "moved with compassion" at the sight of multitudes who were "weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). Follow Jesus in the Gospel accounts and one thing becomes crystal clear – you can't claim to be like Jesus if you have a hard heart. His days were filled with ministry to people. He was among us as the One who served (Luke 22:27). He didn't heal all the sick and diseased people of His day, He didn't eliminate poverty or feed all the hungry, and He didn't forgive all the sinners— just the ones He encountered as He journeyed to the cross. Urging His disciples to worry more about being servants than celebrities, Jesus said of Himself, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). We could go on, but we don't have to. If a sign on a building says "Church of Christ," the members who meet for worship inside ought to be interested in ministry that shows compassion and concern for sick and sorrowful and sinful people. We're not like Jesus if we don't care, no matter how sound our doctrine.

But wait a minute. The adage quoted earlier stated that only one quality is worse than hardness of heart, and that is softness of head. Many religious people, and some members of the churches of Christ among them, seem to think Christianity is about having soft hearts and soft heads. But that won't wash. Jesus Christ had a soft heart, no doubt about that. But He said things that testify to a hard head. Hard, that is, in the sense that they are true and won't bend and cannot be compromised. Jesus insisted He was the only way to God (John 14:6). He talked about a narrow way leading to life and broad way leading to destruction and how the majority travel on the wrong way (Matthew 7:13-14). He talked about false prophets and teachers (Matthew 7:15), and He often talked about the truth – that we can know it and that it will set us free (John 8:32). What is the church like when she really imitates Jesus? She has a soft heart and hard head. She loves and serves people and she loves and preaches truth (see Ephesians 4:15).

In Hebrews 2:1-3 (and 5:11-6:8) an inspired man strongly chastised a group of Christians for being negligent and dull about hearing God's word. But then in Hebrews 6:9 he commends them for their "work. and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister." These passages suggest an important truth — a healthy, God-honoring church will have a soft heart. There will be a whole lot of ministry going on. But there will be no softness in the head. There will be a firm commitment to hold to the pattern of sound words in the New Testament (2 Timothy 1:13). God's people should be concerned about deeds and doctrine, about words and works, about belief and behavior, about message and ministry. We honor God best when we have a soft heart and a hard head.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ