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Back in the day, I played a bit of AFL footy. After my fourth broken arm, at 16 years of age, my very mediocre career came to an abrupt end. My ‘junior colts’ years (10-13 years of age) were played with the Naracoorte Demons. I kid you not, at one season’s end I won the ‘most improved Demon award’. Few ordained Ministers can make that claim to fame. I really wish I kept the trophy! 

What I didn’t have in talent I made up for with raw enthusiasm. I was always on the edge of team selection, often warming the bench. When I did get game time, more often it was in defence – like back pocket, where coaches would hide their weaker players. I didn’t have great ball skills, but I tackled hard and would ‘put my head over the footy’, so to speak. Even as a young fella, I learned the art of sledging. Profanity free, of course! One of the worst ‘sledges’ on the footy field was to call an opponent ‘soft’. ‘Soft’ meant scared, weak, chicken – a liability to the team. 

What was understood in my childhood footy oval is often the same in our culture today. Soft is synonymous with weak. But, following Jesus for a while now, I’ve learned the opposite can be true. Let me explain. 

When you read the stories told about Jesus, you notice how often he got in trouble – ‘good trouble’ – trouble with the religious and political gatekeepers of his day. Here’s the thing – often it was Jesus’ ‘soft heart’ that led him into trouble. In a sense it was inevitable. Moved with compassion, he would touch the untouchables (people with leprosy), eat with the despised (prostitutes and tax collectors) and spend most of his time with the least, the lonely and the lost. His ‘soft heart’ had him snidely dismissed by his opponents as a ‘friend of sinners’. They saw Jesus’ soft and compassionate heart as weak, when in reality it was core to his strength.  

When it comes to the heart, soft really is strong. Frederick Buechner said that ‘compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.’ A soft heart that has the ‘fatal capacity’ to feel for others in need, and then do something about it, is true strength.  

Within Wesley Mission we have articulated our heartbeat, our four values as soft hearts, sharp minds, hard feet and open hands. These four phrases describe who we are, and who we are called more fully to be.  

Everywhere I go, I hear stories of Wesley people who, with soft/strong hearts, do more than could be asked or should be expected, again and again and again – compelled by the fatal capacity to feel what it’s like to live in someone else’s skin.    

In the end, we cannot truly fulfil our mission to ‘continue the work of Jesus Christ’ unless we do so with his heart, a soft/strong heart that is moved to compassionate action. With God’s help and heart, we are not simply ‘service providers’; we are hope carriers, compassion sharers – life changers. 

tiwtter post by stu

Every blessing,

Rev Stu Cameron
CEO and Superintendent, Wesley Mission

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