“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Christianity is more than a mere list of dos and don’ts. God does have boundaries, and we do reap the consequences of our actions here on earth. But when we become wrathful, angry, bitter, and slanderous in how we respond to the mote in our brother’s eye, we need to get the beam out of our own, because those are the works of the flesh and as poisonous to us as what we are attempting to correct in others–in some cases, more so even.
Let our kindness and tenderness be truthful, directed towards encouraging one another to godliness. But kind and tender we must be if we want to be like Jesus–and we have to forgive like Jesus, too. God forgives when we repent and turn from our sin in sorrow, so we must not hold past sins God has forgiven against our brothers and sisters, either–and bitterness and anger against all offenses must be put off (into Christ’s hands in prayer.) So we must forgive everyone in the sense of the word where we are simply letting go of bitterness and anger and leaving vengeance/payback to God. But you can forgive someone in that sense but still protect yourself and not reconcile with someone who is still a threat to you. Only when the person has repented in the sense of turning from their sin and thus ceasing to be a threat does the Bible requires us to forgive in the sense of reconciling with the person and continuing on as if they had never sinned against us.
Being on fire for God is a good thing, but lets remember what was so amazing about the burning bush. The Holy Spirit’s manifestation as fire in the bush was not burning the bush or anyone around it. When we’re full of the fire of the Lord, we should have more in common with a bubbly cold spring that consistently gushes forth sweet and refreshing than a hot, steamy geyser that scalds anyone who happens to be standing too close when it erupts.
Lord, search our hearts. If there be any hidden anger, bitterness, or an unforgiving attitude in our way today, reveal it to us, and strengthen us and grant us the will to share that pain honestly with you and release the offense into your just hands. Show us the path in which you would have us walk and grant us the courage to take those steps with you. Pour into our hearts today grace, love, and kindness that overflows and gushes onto others so we might build up one another and not tear down your work. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Revised version of a devotion originally posted on May 11, 2011