Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cruel Tenderness and Compassionate Severity

"Nothing is so cruel as the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin." -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Rex Ray said...

That’s a very good thought…one that we all shy away from. Rowdiness of some children in our church has made others not want to attend, and we’re afraid to hurt the parent’s feelings by telling them.

Another thought along that line is a poem by Tennyson or someone that my father taught us.

I walked a mile with gladness
She chatted all the way
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with sorrow
Not a word said she
But on the things I learned
When sorrow walked with me.
Rex Ray

Rex Ray said...

To my pastor,
Thanks for addressing the children problem at prayer meeting. That took guts as some of the ‘guilty’ parents were there.

You said, “It’s been brought to my attention…” but I was wishing I was somewhere besides the front row. HA
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Agape (love): to pursue always and unconditionally--despite all costs to myself--the TOTAL WELLBEING of another simply for the prize that one has become to me

If we say that we love rowdy children and their parents (or anyone else), we'll find effective ways to help them make the most of their times in God's house (or anything else)--agape love would do no less, though it often doesn't appear as love on the recipients' side of things!--but, "perfect love (or, love as God designed it) casts out fear (or, doesn't have time to stay afraid even if it experiences fear)"--the total wellbeing of someone we prize is on the line. The Lord Jesus did this for us on the cross--ones standing around the cross that day kept telling Him to come down, but He stayed there seeking our total wellbeing until He died because He prizes us so.

David Troublefield
Wichita Falls, TX

Anonymous said...

While I disagree with some of Bonhoeffer's theology (and in some areas would classify him as Neo-Orthodox), I consider him to be a model and hero. His willingness to stand not simply against the evils of Hitler's regime but for the righteousness of God is something in which we should all emulate.

I see many people fighting against things but I see very few people who are for something in the fight. I see people utilize a utilitarianism concept of the ends justify the means and that is the last thing that Bonhoeffer would have been in favor.

His decision to join in the plot to assassinate Hitler was not a utilitarian decision. It was a desire to fight for the soul of the German Church. He did not see this decision as some might describe as an end that is justified by whatever means it takes. He struggled with this decision because while he viewed the Third Reich as an absolute evil, his goal was not to destroy or seek vengeance but to recreate Christendom into the original purpose established by Christ.

As I read his Letters and Papers from Prison during my thesis days, I was struck by the thought of what might the church have become if he had not been assassinated on April 9, 1945, at Flossenburg Prison. However, I realize that for Bonhoeffer his work had ended and as his last words attest, "This is only the beginning."

Amy Downey -- Saturday (2/9/2007) at 11:22 a.m. on my home computer. said...

Mark and Amanda,

Email me at

I will return your email with my private cell number. I would like for you to call me. Our church stands ready to help. said...


Thank you for commenting.

You are a bright, intelligent and articulate person. Our convention is blessed to have you at SWBTS.

Please receive my heartfelt apology for my comments to you on another blog. In no form or fashion did I intend to hurt you or embarrass you. I probably am a little oversensitive to people who criticize others behind a moniker or pseudonym, and in my zeal I commented and misspoke when I should have just remained silent.

I do extend to you my heartfelt expression of regret and seek your forgiveness. You are always welcome to comment and add your insightful thoughts, agreeing or disagreeing, any time you choose.

And by the way, it is much more becoming to us all when you sign your name. Thanks.

In His Grace,


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your apology. It is obviously accepted. And BTW, my moniker for those who know me is who I am and not a pseudonym.

Amy Downey said...


Thanks for your forgiveness.

By the way, I am not convinced Bonhoeffer was neo-orthodox.

In His Grace,


Steve said...

Remain silent? How much fun is that!?

Correcting situations as with rowdy children, etc., is a definite gift of tactfulness, a skill which some of us definitely miss.

RKSOKC66 said...


I hope that the previous post by Mark and Amanda is describing a situation that is atypical in SBC life.

As an engineer I always try to dissect any problem objectively and "remedy" it. Problems like this are not likely ameniable to any type of "scientific" solution.

Roger Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

Writer said...


Thank you for your public apology to Amy. I know this is between you and Amy, however, since your comment was on a public blog, I very much appreciate the public apology as a fellow blogger.



Writer said...


I believe that Mark and Amanda's treatment is not "atypical" in SBC churches. I have personally witnessed this treatment many times in Texas and North Carolina SBC churches. Whether it is a "church" issue or a "pastor" issue, I don't know. It's just bad for the witness of Christ.

Mark and Amanda,

If you have a Paypal account, send me your email.



Steve said...

I have first-hand experience in a social club passing as a church. Everything becomes a control issue in these places. I think the tipping point comes when people only talk about church and never pray about church. At the time we left the median member age was about 60.

Mark & Amanda's story is as frustrating as it was preventable.

hopelesslyhuman said...


Stories like Mark & Amanda's could be told a hundred times over. It is anything but atypical in Southern Baptist life.

Anonymous said...

Mark Hollinsworth's comment above, calls to mind a statement by Duffy Daugherty who coached Michigan State's football team (and was quoted last week by George Will. ) Daugherty famously said, "A football coach's main problem is that he is responsible to irresponsible people."

Job security is surely not one of the expected occupational benefits of being a SBC church minister.

Perhaps Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If" can provide some solace to Mark.

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rex Ray said...

David Troublefield,
You made a nice comment about “rowdy” kids. I agree kids will be kids, and we can’t expect them to act as adults. If kids are only rowdy, they will behave when told in a nice way to settled down. I should have used better words to define our ‘kid problem’ as abusive, disobedient, disrespectful, and defiant.

Yesterday someone else told my wife her two girls did not want to attend a fifth grade SS because a few were so disruptive etc. Their teacher told me she was thinking about quitting. She’s no push-over, and when told by one that he was not going to do what he was told and asked, “What are you going to do about it?’ she said she just about blew her top. Said, I sat him down and told him he had made a confession of faith in Jesus, and he was not acting like Jesus would want him to etc. How much good did it do? That night his father and mother were in charge. Within five minutes, the father grabs the chair—boy and all and starts out of the room, but the boy breaks free and runs around the table. I wanted to grab him but I decided to stay out of it. The fuss starts all over again. He yells out, makes jokes of what is said, and throws books etc. “If you don’t stop, you’re going home.” Over and over. One night I counted 15 times within 45 minuets. And 5 times the mother said, “That’s it. Get up—I’m taking you home.” Each time the father would say, “I’m going to give you one more chance.” The kid is extremely smart and his older brother by one year is an angel. This kid is not the only one—there are several.

So David, what do I do? I’m thinking if I wasn’t around maybe his father would give him what he’s asking for. What do you think? I wrote the following and gave it to my pastor:

A family was visiting my father from Alaska. Their seven year old son would have nothing to do with my father. One day, the couple was talking to my father, and their son kicked his mother on the leg wanting her to do something. She said, “Stop, that hurt. We are talking now; I’ll help you later.” In about a minute, he kicked her again. My father grabbed the boy, put him over his lap, and spanked his bottom with his hand. His father said, “Well, I guess it’s time to go home.” Afterwards, the boy took up with my father, and was happy following him around. The family stayed many more days.


1. Exodus 20: 12 “Honor your father and your mother…”

2. Romans 1:32, 31 “They were fully aware of God’s death penalty for these crimes.” “…being disobedient to their parents.”

3. Ephesians 6:1 “Children, obey your parents; this is the right thing to do because God has placed them in authority over you.”

4. Colossians 3:20 “You children must always obey your fathers and mothers, for that pleases the Lord.”

5. Proverbs 13:1 “A wise youth accepts his father’s rebuke; a young mocker doesn’t.”

6. II Timothy 2: 2, 5 “…They will sneer at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful to them, and thoroughly bad.” “They will go to church, but won’t believe anything they hear.”


1. Ephesians 6:4 “Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves.”

2. Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, don’t scold your children so much that they become discouraged and quit trying.”

3. Proverbs 13:24 “The one who will not use the rod hates his son, but the one who loves him disciplines him diligently.” “If you refuse to discipline your son, it proves you don’t love him; for if you love him you will be prompt to punish him.”

4. I Timothy 3:4-5 “He must have a well-behaved family, with children who obey quickly and quietly.” “For if a man can’t make his own little family behave, how can he help the whole church?”

Rex Ray

Steve said...

Parents have to be the grown-ups, and that is incredibly hard for some to do. Many who promise correction or punishment and then fail to deliver it do not realize what they are doing, and what its impact is on a logical, testing child.

Kids have an instinctive drive to be different from their siblings, in the opinion of some, and this leaves some parents unable or unwilling to deal with the fact that while one child appears to be a hard-working angel, the next child in the same family can be a devious Cain or a grasping Jacob. We've all known of cases where the nicest, most positive Christian parents you could ask for have a child who never ever "gets it," and we are left praying that when he/she hits bottom, he/she will just survive long enough to realize it.

Anonymous said...

Bro. Rex:

Thanks for your insights to the subject of this thread--and for the Scripture references pointing us to the type of family members God desires/has commanded us all to be.

I can't agree with parents who give "one more chance" for the thousandth time and call it "love" that that IS love. Again, love in its highest form (agape) is "to pursue always and unconditionally--despite all costs to myself--the TOTAL WELLBEING of another simply for the prize that one has become to me". For a parent to permit a child to kick her on the leg repeatedly in order to get her attention IS NOT love in that case--to take the offending child into a private place and spank him on the part of his anatomy God designed for it IS love, as that action seeks the child's total wellbeing.

People are invited to Bible study and it is assumed they will discipline themselves while present. When children fail to exercise self-discipline during Bible study times, their parents should be made aware of it--and should do something effective about it. If those parents fail to do so, it is loving to inform them that others present want to learn the Bible but are unable to because of the undisciplined child--and that the others are needlessly considering leaving. The parents should be encouraged--lovingly--to help their child correct his problem, or they should be "uninvited" to attend Bible study until the child chooses to behave. It may sound odd, but that IS love--seeking the total wellbeing of another simply for the prize he has become to me. (Obviously, the dynamics of relationships with people keep this kind of situation from being as simplistic-sounding as it is above; I am not a counselor, but think that the above does describe agape-love in action.)

I think that a lot of the people now serving in vocational ministry once were that misbehaving child. I certainly was not the perfect child my parents may have thought that I was--and many Sunday School teachers of the past can testify to that! The ones who loved me, though, did not let me get away with my misbehavior; they cared enough to talk to me--or to my parents (who, then, took care of the matter with me!)--about it.

Have a great Sunday, Bro. Rex!

David Troublefield