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Tender Mercies

It was a modest motion picture released in 1983 without much anticipation that it would be a block-buster, but the star won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe award for best actor the following year. In "Tender Mercies," Robert Duvall played Mac Sledge, a washed -up country and western singer ruined by alcohol. Sledge found a new family when he married a widow, Rosa, played by Tess Harper, and new faith when he was baptized at the local church. He also reached out to his long-lost daughter, Sue Anne, and reconciled with her before her untimely death in an auto accident.

Duvall brought a lot of passion to this film and, interestingly, it brought his only Oscar in a distinguished film career.

The film title comes from Rosa's declaration that every night in prayer she thanked God for his love and tender mercies.

"Tender mercies" is used 11 times in Psalms and Proverbs. For example, Psalm 145: 9 says, "The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works."

The God of the Bible is a mighty God. He spoke the worlds into existence. He flung the stars from his fingertips and carved out the oceans with his hands. But we should never forget for one moment his tender mercies for all humanity.

I knew her as a delightful young lady. She was friendly and outgoing and made friends easily. She had a beautiful family and was active in her church. But one day she fell in love with a man not her husband and abandoned her family. She like the prodigal son in Luke 15 went to the far country seeking new excitement. But in the pig pen of rebellion she, like the prodigal, "came to herself," and decided to go home. Her family received her gratefully and restored her to their hearts.

But then there was the issue of her church family. They were the people who prayed for her while she was away, and cared for the family she abandoned. How would they respond? She decided to repent before them in public worship. She did so with fear not knowing what to expect. But what happened was beyond what she had imagined. They received her and loved her and rejoiced that a family was made whole.

This is what the church of Jesus Christ does--we act like the Good Father of Luke15 who ran to receive his son joyfully. It's not our job to focus on all the details of degradation in the life of another, since we all have degradation aplenty in our own lives. Our job is to restore in joy and rejoice in God's tender mercies.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala., and adjunct instructor of speech at Jefferson State Community College, Hoover. Permission is granted to use this material with attribution.


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