What are the hard things of Scripture? Are they things like God being accused of genocide in the Old Testament? Things like sacrificing everything you own? Choosing Jesus over your parents, siblings, friends?
These are all hard things to deal with. Remember Jesus’ injunction to one man, “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). That’s a hard thing. But I don’t think it is the hardest of things that scripture presents us with.
I think the hardest things in scripture are: Forgiving with tenderness
Being in love with Jesus
Believe it or not those are the hardest things in scripture and here’s why:
They violate human nature
They require we radically change our emotions
Think for a moment about how someone may have offended you deeply. The wound, whether fresh or old, remains open. The pain is visceral. How does one change from pain, anger, and even hatred, to feelings of warmth and tenderness for the offensive one? How can you feel from deep within your heart true feelings of wishing the other person well in his or her life?
Tell me that’s not a hard thing.
Being in love with Jesus is similar. We can’t see him. We can’t touch him. We can’t even get on a phone to chat or receive a text message. He doesn’t “like” anything we do on Facebook. But communicating with Jesus is easy, I just talk. But what if I hear nothing back? How do I develop a true sense of love for someone whom I’ve never even shaken hands with?
There is only one answer to both of these issues. It’s the secret of the Christian life. Without it, you can’t forgive with tenderness—real, deep, meaningful tenderness. And you can’t fall in love with Jesus. What is that secret?
The Holy Spirit
It is only through the Holy Spirit working in your life that you can come to real, tenderhearted forgiveness for another person. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can fall in love with Jesus. Without him, the Christian life is impossible. Consider:
The Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit teaches (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is impassioned for us (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit enables us to love (II Timothy 1:7).
The reality is that the hard things are possible if we live by the Spirit. Paul said, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
If you are having trouble with forgiveness and love, then you are having a problem that the Holy Spirit can solve through your submission to him.