Thick Skin, Soft Heart

A rich young ruler comes up to Jesus asking what he needs to do in order to inherit eternal life.  Jesus tells him to obey the Jewish law.  The young ruler says he has been doing this since he was little.  Jesus looks at this rich ruler with deep love and affection.  Then Jesus says he lacks one thing, and tells the man to sell his riches, give them to the poor, and follow Jesus wholly.

Instead of jumping on the opportunity to be with Jesus more intimately, he walks away.  And Jesus, still with the deep look of love and affection on his face, lets him walk away.  Jesus does not run after him.  Jesus keeps walking with his face set like flint towards Jerusalem.

There are two things I believe any disciple of Jesus needs to have:  a thick skin and a soft heart.

A Thick Skin.  Any person who has a strong understanding of the call Jesus has on their life, needs a thick skin.  People who are called by God (all of us), and respond to that call (few of us), will immediately realize that their life will have focus and direction.  Called people live intentionally.  Like Jesus, they set their face like flint towards the thing God created them for.

And people who live intentionally will always encounter others who will question, attack, and distract them from their God-given purpose.  In our compassion, we will be prone to let these people influence us.  I am convinced that many men and women of God, in their compassion, alter their path to chase after these people.  But I am also convinced that we need to understand that Jesus let people walk away.

I am convinced, that to walk in our calling, we will need a thick skin.

A Soft Heart.  Letting God’s call give us focus and direction ought to help us develop a thick skin.  However, it ought not give us a callous heart.  The focused heart does not have to be hard… though this often happens.

A heart that is constantly questioned, attacked, and distracted is likely to do two things: 1) be overwhelmed by absorbing all these things, or 2) become hardened by the naysayers.  Unfortunately, there are too many Christian leaders who a sharp in their mission, but just as sharp with people.

When that happens, the mission becomes de-personalized.  The urgency of the mission does not allow us to stop, and look at others with love and affection.  A soft heart will always take the time to lovingly invite others to leave their wide ways of this world, and join us in the narrow Jesus-way.  Sure, many will walk the other direction.  But the disciple with a soft heart will never be the cause.

How do you maintain a thick skin and soft heart?  How do we imitate Jesus’ focus (towards the cross) and compassion (embracing all the people along the way)?