Tuesday, May 03, 2005

THE WISDOM OF TENDERNESS: What happens when God’s fierce mercy transforms our lives?
By Brennan Manning
HarperSanFrancisco, 2002 (paperback, 2004), 179 pages

The Wisdom of Tenderness


This book turns on one question: “Do I wholeheartedly trust that God likes me?” (p. 17). We have a difficult time with this question, for even when we know God loves us, our attitudes and behaviors show that we probably do not trust his fondness.

Our understanding of ourselves directly corresponds to our understanding of God. If we truly believe that God is our loving Abba, then we truly believe that we are Abba’s loved children. Until we believe this, until our hearts have been touched by God’s tenderness, we will not be truly tender and we will not become mature.

In his fierce mercy, Jesus loves those who admit brokenness and judges those who presume wholeness. Broken persons, touched by Jesus’ fierce mercy, see him in other broken persons and share his mercy with everyone they meet. If Abba’s touch, through Jesus, transforms who we truly are—Abba’s loved children—why then does the reputation of narrowness and bigotry follow so much of Christianity? Why is there so much untouched suffering?

Face-to-face with God’s fierce mercy we see our brokenness in all its despicable glory. There we realize that exposing our brokenness—feeling that shame and fear—is the beginning of accepting God’s tenderness. Beyond that beginning is a clear vision of our own brokenness and a fierce reliance on God’s fondness. Wisdom is realizing God’s incomprehensible power, trusting his irreversible fondness, and then living like it.

Ministry is person-to-person. Merely doing the tasks is insufficient because we bring our whole selves as we minister to other whole selves. When ministers deny their brokenness and disguise it with competence, they cheat themselves, they cheat those under their care, and they cheat God. Brennan Manning’s The Wisdom of Tenderness exposes this and points the way to headlong friendship with God. Ministry teams hungering for something beyond duty and responsibility will find in this book a map of the terrain they long for. Those struggling under the weight of brokenness will find in this book a brother pointing to the loving arms of Abba. Those living with the self-deceived presumption of wholeness may find in this book emotional fluff and squishy theology. But the theology is not squishy, nor is the emotion fluffy. Rather, The Wisdom of Tenderness is a portrait of the Abba of Jesus, who loves us so much that he gave his Son for us, and who likes us so much that he desires to spend eternity in our company.


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