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A Firm Center with Soft Edges

Posted by on in The Upward Call
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Recently as I was reading, a writer introduced me to a phrase that caught my attention. He was talking about being able to have conversations with others who disagree with us and he used the term “firm center with soft edges” to describe our attitude with others. This is the opposite of the jelly-filled doughnut that has a firm edge with a squishy center. However, I am afraid, as Christians, many of us operate like the jelly-filled doughnut rather than the other way around.


What does it mean to have a firm center with soft edges when dealing with people? Let me give you a quick example of how Jesus demonstrates this principle. In John 8, Jesus is confronted with a woman who has been caught in adultery. We know that the scribes and Pharisees did this to try to trap Jesus in a dilemma with the law that he could not weasel out of. For our purposes, let’s look at Jesus’ interaction with the woman. Jesus, after the rest of the crowd left because of his difficult statement, says, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (8:10). Jesus is not interested in defending what she has done; instead, he is interested in defending her. He is showing tenderness and mercy or, in other words, having a soft edge with a person. After she responds, “No one, Lord,” he says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on, sin no more” (8:11). Jesus is holding to God’s law by commanding that the lady not act like this anymore (having a firm center) while showing her respect and helping her to have dignity through mercy.


I think one of the main reasons it is hard for us to try to have this type of attitude Jesus showed is because we are so uncomfortable with our own sins that we certainly don’t know how to deal with the sins of others. On the other hand, for some of us we may feel like we are not that bad. God hasn’t had to forgive me of a whole lot for me to be a “good” person so it is difficult for me to demonstrate forgiveness towards others. Both of these attitudes wind up making us hard on the outside towards others, resulting in a judgmental attitude like the people who brought the adulterous lady to Jesus. They managed to forget that there was a lady that God created and loves at the center of their religious trap.


One of the best ways we can begin to have this godly attitude of a firm center with soft edges is to know what it is that we should believe. We must know the Word of God so we can know what our center should be anchored to. Many times, we are anchored to the wrong items. Remember the warning Jesus gave the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23:23 about worrying about the small matters of the law while neglecting the “weightier matters.” The weightiest matter to God is always the souls of people; His whole plan from the beginning of time centers around people and their redemption through Jesus. This should be at the core of everything we practice in our Christian lives and in the church; however, we do not have to move from the obedience God calls us to in His Word in order to practice this. We just have to make sure our priorities are in line with God’s priorities. Jesus didn’t neglect to tell the woman not to participate in the sinful activities she was caught in; yet, he did that only after he had shown the soft edge that allowed her to understand forgiveness and find mercy. Then she was ready to listen to the teaching Jesus offered. People in the world will do the same with us if we mimic this attitude! Try it and see how it works. May God bless you with patience, mercy, and grace as you offer these things to others!

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