Tough-minded and Tenderhearted

BY ANDREW RAINES

Throughout the year, the Church follows the whole course of Jesus’ life from birth to ascension. We do so because we believe Christ’s life brings us life. If we stumble along in his footsteps, our lives will be changed for the better. 

So, Lent is the time when Christians prepare for sharing in Jesus’ resurrection on Easter by first reliving his 40 days in the desert. We walk with him through his experience of deprivation and temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1–13; Matthew 4:1-11). Just as Noah, Moses, Elijah, Jonah, and now Jesus all set aside 40 of their days to make their hearts ready for God, so too we take this time to prepare a clear path for God to walk into our lives (Isaiah 40:3). 

Our task during this period is twofold. Lent is a time for us to remember that God’s greatness “lies in the fact that he is both tough minded and tenderhearted.” [1]

First, we know the Lord makes demands on us and will hold us to account. He makes no peace with oppression. Indeed, when God’s people ignore his commandment to love, he rebukes us:

I hate, I despise your feasts,

    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings,

    I will not accept them,

and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts

    I will not look upon.

Take away from me the noise of your songs;

    to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

But let justice roll down like waters,

    and righteousness like an everflowing stream (Amos 5:21-24 RSV).

Therefore, Lent is not a time to heap up sacrifices, no matter how dear, in order to win God’s favor. Rather, it is an opportunity to rend our hearts and not our garments (Joel 2:13). We do so through prayer, fasting, and—most importantly—sacrificial giving.

Second, however, we believe that God has chosen us already. God refuses to be God without us. Before we ever know him, before we ever pray or fast or give alms, God has already looked at each of us and said, “I want you to be.”

Therefore, we can enter these 40 days with the assurance that God already loves us. Lent is not a time for coaxing mercy out of God, hoping that by Easter we’ll have done enough good for him to look our way as he pulls the dead from their graves. He’s already reached his hand out to us. 

When we approach Lent this way, this period of self-denial can also be one of joy. Repentance, letting God change our ways for the better, is “to smile, not to frown, to look up, not down. It is not just the recognition that things have gone wrong, but the realization that through Christ they can be put right.” [2] Our small acts of repentance are hope rising from the ashes, glimmers of a new world. Even though everything we do is inevitably compromised by selfishness, God can still use our straw “as tinder upon which the spark of the Spirit can fall.” [3]

This Lent, we at Logos and Crux invite you to walk with us as we imitate Christ. We sincerely believe that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” [4] During these forty days, join us as our writers share stories and reflections from their encounters with the God who is tough-minded and tenderhearted.

Andrew Raines is a Senior at Duke University studying History and Attic Greek. He is the blog managing editor for Duke Crux

This piece is a part of a syndicated series in collaboration with Yale Logos for Lent 2021. Read more at: https://www.yalelogos.com/lent-2021

Notes

[1] Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, Strength to Love (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2010), 8; italics added.

[2] +Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia

[3] Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt, The Love That Is God: an Invitation to Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2020), xvii.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, “Deus Caritas Est,” Deus caritas est, December 24, 2005, http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est.html.

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