And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:5 ESV)
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Hardness of heart means simply failure to soften your heart. It means failure of empathy. A rejection of someone else as a person. It means we see them as an annoyance, or it means certain rules and regulations take precedence over their needs in an unhelpful way. Surely hardness of heart is the opposite of the ‘reasonableness’ or ‘gentleness’ we spoke of a few days ago.
As a medical doctor I was taught ‘professionalism’ as a means of protecting myself from emotional challenges. Whilst I understood that, I always reacted against it a little. If the only way we can get through our work is by toughening ourselves to the extent we no longer feel anything, something is wrong. As Christians we are taught to value every individual, which requires compassion. Of course I am not advocating over-involvement. There is a balance to this.
In the story we have in front of us, Jesus was unconcerned about religious sensitivities. He was prepared to engage with them in a discussion of their legalistic requirements. But what he saw most in front of him was someone with a withered hand. And because it was within his power to heal them, that is precisely what he did.
Help me Lord to be compassionate towards everyone I see.
Thank you that you are gracious towards me despite my failure.
Please help me to be one who makes a difference whenever I can and I see need in front of me.
In short, Lord, make me like you