Session 14: The Way of Tenderness.

The compassionate life is neither a sloppy goodwill toward the world nor the plague of what Robert Wicks calls, ‘chronic niceness.” It does not insist that a widow become friendly with her husband’s murderer. It does not demand that we like everyone. It does not wink at sin and injustice. It does not accept reality indiscriminately – love and lust, Christianity and atheism, Marxism and capitalism. The way of tenderness avoids blind fanaticism. Instead, it seeks to see with penetrating clarity. The compassion of God in our hearts opens our eyes to the unique worth of each person. The other is ourself; and we must love him in his sin as we are loved in our sin. What makes the Kingdom come is heartfelt compassion: a way of tenderness that knows no frontiers, no labels, no compartmentalizing, and no sectarian divisions. Jesus, the human Face of God, invites us to deep reflection on the nature of true discipleship and the radical lifestyle of Abba’s child.  Brennan Manning, Chapter Four

As I see it, walking in the Way of Tenderness, as described by Brennan Manning, is no sappy sweet, ‘let it be’ attitude. No careless and carefree ‘I love you and you love me’ mindset. No one big happy Coca-Cola commercial with all of us holding hands while we’re all ignoring the cold-hard fact that our world is quickly going to hell in a hand basket.

The Way of Tenderness is a radical, God-breathed lifestyle made up of unconditional, undying agape. Love that goes the distance. Love and acceptance that is given freely even when it is not returned.

No scratch that.

Love and acceptance that is given freely especially when it is not returned.

But wait.

Let’s be honest here. As I see it, this Way of Tenderness, seeing life with “penetrating clarity,” is such a radical approach to life, I’m truly skeptical that any human being can actually access this level of agape love. Maybe Manning has been dipping into the sauce again. I mean, everybody knows that this old priest-turned ragamuffin gospel evangelist had a nagging problem with alcohol.

Maybe Brennan is just imagining things here? I mean come on. Suggesting that people can walk in such unlimited love and acceptance in this life is a bit too radical for me, don’t you agree? Truthfully, everything in life tells me that this Way of Tenderness, Manning describes is a lifestyle reserved for Divinity alone! With our fallen nature here in a fallen world, isn’t it true that we human beings can only gaze at this amazing approach to life, longing for the day we might be given access to it?

How dare Brennan Manning suggest that a human being could walk in the Way of Tenderness. It’s ludicrous for him to believe that any one human could walk in such grace as this. Giving unmerited worth to others. Assigning unlimited value to every person on the planet. Unconditionally loving both others and ourselves as only a God could do. Bah. Humbug.

…But, oh…wait.

Now that you mention it, there was one human being who did do just that. There was that one man, the Carpenter from Nazareth, who seemed to get it right. That Jewish radical who fully embraced and lived freely the Way of Tenderness. And if I remember His words rightly, He did say to His followers, “Come, follow Me, and go, and do likewise.”

Hmm.

Could it be that there is a secret pathway that leads to the Way of Tenderness? Maybe there actually is a road less traveled that has been opened up for those who allow the Holy Spirit to give eyes to see it and ears to hear it?

Quite possibly, this Way of Tenderness, as described by Brennan Manning, is more available to us than we first thought? Could it be that this ancient path of love taken uniquely by the God-Man Jesus of Nazareth is not reserved only for Divinity? Maybe this ‘one new man’ the New Testament talks about is a God-breathed creature that somehow, someway has access to the Way of Tenderness?

Apparently this old priest, Brennan Manning, thought so.

Well, let’s keep reading and see where this new possibility called the Way of Tenderness takes us. Brennan’s next chapter, number five, is entitled, The Pharisee and the Child.

Which part would you like to play?

My prayer: Jesus, without a doubt, You did walk the Way of Tenderness. And in truth, You are still walking that path today. You modeled for us a lifestyle that, quite honestly, is so radical…so extreme…so loving, I’ve had trouble over the years believing that I could ever qualify for such a trek as this. Thank You that You are opening my eyes and unplugging my ears so that the possibility of me walking the Way of Tenderness is closer now than ever before. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Why has Jesus’ Way of Tenderness seemed so inaccessible to me over the years? What obstacles have I put in the way, issues that block my road to unending, unconditional love and acceptance for both others and myself? What words and deeds from others have made it difficult for me to follow Jesus on His road to becoming Abba’s child?

So what is God speaking to you today as you live as Abba’s child in the midst of His Gospel of Grace?

Over an eleven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at God’s Gospel of Grace; Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance. We are using Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging as our guide. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Gospel of Grace home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

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