The Bible exhorts us to deal graciously with our fellowmen (Eph 4: 29, 32). However, most of us struggle to obey this Christian duty because of our sinful, depraved nature. We find it hard to be kind to those who are unkind to us; we harbour bitter feelings against those who offend or hurt us.
As Christians, how can we learn to deal graciously? How can we relate with others in a God-honouring way? In our article last week, we posed these questions and found some answers from Paul’s epistles. As God has dealt graciously with us especially in granting us salvation, we must likewise extend grace to our neighbours (Eph 2: 1-5, 8-9). We ought to relate patiently and humbly with them (I Thess 5: 14; Philp. 2: 3-4). As we conclude the topic this week, let us again turn to Paul’s epistles for instruction on this subject:
o Walk in love
One of our chief duties as God’s children is to love one another. Love is one of the sure marks of true saving faith.
The apostle exhorted the Ephesians to mutual love: “ …walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph 5: 2). Let our conduct and conversation be characterised by unconditional love. Emulate our Lord Jesus Christ Who has loved us and given Himself for us. We are to love others the same way our Saviour loves us – unselfishly and sacrificially.
“The strength of His love was so great that He (Christ) was willing to give Himself up to death on our account; our love for our brethren should be such that we would be willing to do the same thing for them” (William Burkitt’s Expository Notes).
When we love one another, we are not only obeying God but also showing the world that we are Christ’s disciples: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn 13: 34-35).
How do we “walk in love”? How are we to love our brethren? Harbour no envy, malice or ill-will in our heart against them. Think well of them and their motives, and seek their best interests and well-being (I Cor 13: 4-7). May the following poem (Daily Remembrancer) reflect our desire to walk in love:
“May I from every act abstain,
That hurts or gives my brother pain;
Nay, every secret wish suppress,
That would abridge his happiness;
And this may I Thy follower prove,
Great Prince of peace, great God of love”
o Be willing to forgive
One way of dealing graciously is to forgive those who have hurt or offended us. The apostle Paul challenged the Ephesian Christians to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4: 32).
This is not an easy command to obey. Some may say: “I have been grievously hurt. No one will ever know the anguish and pain I have suffered. After all that I have gone through, how can I ever forgive?” We will find it hard to forgive when we continue to mull over the offence or repeat it to others. These negative feelings embitter our heart. It is possible that as a result of the offender’s wrongdoing, we suffer losses, even deep humiliation and hurt. But no matter how grievous the wrong, we must still obey God and forgive the offender.
We must forgive “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. God has, by His grace, forgiven us our many faults. Let us learn to forgive others in the same way (Matt 18: 21-35).
“Offences done to men are nothing (compared) to those which are committed against God. … Not that therefore we may make light of wronging our neighbour, for that is also a sin against God; but therefore we should make light of our neighbour’s wronging us, and not aggravate it, or study revenge” (Matthew Henry).
When we are willing to forgive, the Lord brings healing to our heart and frees us from a bitter, vengeful spirit.
o Seek the Lord’s help
Finally, seek the Lord’s help to be gracious. On our own, we are not able to do it. Determine to show grace. Commit every negative situation to the Lord. Start by doing kind acts and speaking gracious words. As we make these conscious efforts, the Lord will honour our godly desire and help us conquer our depravity and self-will. May the Lord help each of us to deal graciously with one another. Amen.