I love words and word studies. In fact, I own a huge book that I take out on occasion when we are in the throngs of family devotions. Admittedly, I have seen the look of terror and dismay on my children’s faces when they see me emerge from this book’s “cage’—my bedroom–carrying this monstrous green dictionary, The American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster, 1828. They know they will be enduring another one of my impromptu word studies. This book, written almost two centuries ago, contains enough biblical references and quotes in its word definitions to kill any curiosity one might have about the meanings. This is a no nonsense hunk of words!
Why do I love word studies so much? It’s because a word in its construct reflects ideas, and ideas can produce consequences. Noah Webster put it this way in 1821, “An immense effect may be produced by small powers wisely and steadily directed.”
I agree, as I have seen a word, when freshly or more deeply understood, change my life!! This summer I am chewing and meditating on the word, “tenderhearted.”
The force of this word, tenderhearted, must have arrested the Apostle Paul, a former Christian killer and persecutor. After his miraculous conversion to Jesus Christ, he told us twice to put on and wear this word daily like a basic garment, a layer right next to your skin!
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph. 4:31-32
“…As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering…” Col. 3:12
Webster’s definition tells us that “tenderhearted” means to be “susceptible to the softer passions of love, pity, compassion and kindness.” Did you know that there was a category of passions, called “softer?” Paul and Webster are separating these from the others. I have always considered myself a passionate person—usually zealous about something! Until this summer’s pursuit of Paul’s call to be tenderhearted, I had NO idea that I could be/should be zealously and daily passionate about some “soft” things. We may not be granted opportunities very often to lead a great civil cause or protest an injustice, but aren’t we granted opportunities everyday to express our zeal in the realm of the softer passions?
Being “susceptible” sounds like a disposition in which one might easily catch something that will change how he/she normally feels. Ever go to bed feeling fine and strong and then wake up the next morning feeling weak and sick? It would be safe to conclude that you were unknowingly susceptible to a bunch of bad germs! They took over your defenseless body! What if we woke up instead in the morning allowing/permitting the germ of the softer passions to seize us, and make us LOVE SICK? Now that would be a good day—for us and for all around us!