Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32
These words from the Apostle Paul are easy to read yet difficult to live out. As forgiven people, it should take little effort to show kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to one another. So why do we struggle so much in this area?
In a world that seems to be increasingly polarized and angry, the Church should shine out as an example of how to live differently; how to live in kindness and compassion. Sadly, we as believers often share in and act upon the same anger, the same hostility, and the same social media mob mentality as the rest of the world. We jump right into the same mess and end up with the same emptiness. We even take this approach to our disagreements with fellow believers in Christ. Politics, worship styles, theological positions, even things as simple as what time the service should start (or in the COVID world, whether to wear masks or meet in person) are just some of the issues that continue to divide, conquer and bring pain to our fellowship in Christ. We can and must do better, and Ephesians 4:32 commands it.
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1. Embrace a New Way to Live
At the start of Ephesians 4, Paul reminds us of the unity we have in Christ.: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:2-6)
It is never enough to try and avoid negative behavior. What is needed is to replace negative behavior with positive behavior, and here Paul is giving us the resources to do just that. We are not called to ‘try and avoid being rude’. We are called to embrace humility, patience, love, and unity. In Christ we are equipped to be completely humble towards one another, remembering that we are unified and made one through Christ, who displayed the ultimate humility by living among us and suffering on our behalf. When we live and practice these things, we make less room for hate and anger.
2. Seek to Live as One
Paul goes to great lengths to emphasize that we are one in Christ! As members of the same body, redeemed by the same God, we are designed to support, complement, and uphold one another. Yet so often we do the opposite, as we effectively destroy and tear down one another. That is the work of Satan, and all too often we obligingly go about his work for him. Jesus prays for us in John 17:20-21 that each of us, “may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. This is not just a good idea: it is the will of God.
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3. Use our Words to Encourage, Not Tear Down
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29
The words of our mouths can speak blessings and curses. As believers, it is a privilege to speak kindness and encouragement to one another.
We should be mindful of our words and seek to use whatever influence we have in the pattern of James 1:19-20, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires".
A firm foundation in Scripture helps to guide our personal interactions, allows us to be the light in the world that we seek to be, and keeps us from tearing others down thoughtlessly:
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly" - Proverbs 15:1-2.
"The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing" - Proverbs 12:18.
4. Be Slow to Speak and Quick to Listen
Social media is one of the greatest things to ever happen in the life of the Church. It is also one of the worst. We have at our literal fingertips a tool to encourage people we could never meet in person, connect with friends who live thousands of miles away, and share our faith with the world. Yet so often we end up arguing with those people and seeking to debate and cause hurt instead.
In 2009, the word “Unfriend” was named the word of the year. Our culture latched onto it and has never looked back, and we as the Church have latched ourselves right along with them. We get our feelings hurt by people we may barely know, or even worse, people we know well, and we then unfriend them. In person, and on social media, let us be wise in the words we use, and thoughtful in our responses. Whenever we have the opportunity, let’s meet with others in person and talk over coffee instead of facebook.
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5. Try Smiling
"Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end." - Proverbs 29:11
In a world where everyone is wearing a mask, I miss smiling at people and seeing them smile back at me. One of the simplest things we can do in our interactions with others is to simply smile at them and say hello. I’m not sure if our expressions are worth a thousand words, but I do know that when we smile at people, they may be inclined to smile back. A simple smile can go a long way.
6. Remember That We Are All Created in God’s Image
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” - Philippians 2:3
The more time we spend in God’s Word, the more we become like Christ. The more we become like Christ, the more we value others. It is not uncommon to hear that Church people can be the kindest people or the cruelest. It is time for that to come to a stop, and live in the joy, kindness, and compassion that Christ has freed us to live in.
As we seek Christ, our attitudes toward one another should become like his. We should love and care for the people he has redeemed as his own. As we grow in our walk with him, may we find ways to compliment others.
Show compassion instead of judgment. Give as has been given unto us. Offer help when we know there is a need. Most of all, may we lead the way in praising Christ, loving his people, and living a different and more fulfilling life.
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Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor and in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on Twitter, Instagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.