Rick Nevala | The Voice of Zion August 2022 --
As children of grace, we endeavor to believe sins and faults forgiven. Righteousness of faith fosters righteousness of life. As our sins are forgiven through no merit of our own, we want to extend this unfathomable measure of love to all. The apostle Paul says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). This requires patience and humility, praying to be able to approach others with the mind of Christ.
The Bible says that gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body (Prov. 16:24). We are to be “kindly affectionate” to one another, to speak kindly to each other. We remember with affection those who speak to us in that way, especially those we have wronged who repaid us with kindness. May these memories inform our own conduct.
That said, it is more likely that we remember those who have spoken to us with unkind words. Many have heard the untrue rhyme “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Traditional thinking such as this supports a culture where bullying and cruel language is acceptable. But God’s Word reveals bullying and cruelty as sin. It is far from the mind of Christ.
When a friend or loved one has left faith, showing love for them may be difficult because we feel personally hurt by their actions, perhaps even angry due to feelings of abandonment or disappointment. Above all, however, we are concerned about their soul’s salvation. Therefore, we suppress personal pain and strive to show love, to extend God’s love toward them with welcoming words and actions. God can yet call them.
The relationship between Joseph and his brothers especially presents a lesson in showing love. Joseph was patient and kind to his family when they came to Egypt looking for grain during the seven years of drought. They had reason to fear him, having sold him into slavery. They thought, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil we did to him” (Gen. 50:15). Joseph nevertheless spoke kindly to them and, moreover, he helped them. Joseph surely felt pain when his brothers mistreated him, yet Joseph treated his brothers with love. He regarded them with the mind of Christ.
Joseph’s love presents an image of Jesus’ love. Jesus reverses the “eye for an eye” Old Testament instruction when He teaches us to show love by “turning the other cheek.” When we are hurt, Jesus teaches us to turn away from retaliation; this would apply to both physical wounds and language. Indeed, words may hurt much more than physical pain and even cause life-long trauma. It is important to end the cycle of pain by withholding payback.
Kind and loving treatment also includes how we regard and treat others in our community, including those with the least stature. What do we say when our children point out a homeless person on the street for instance? Do we say that the homeless one should find a job? We have all been created by God and but for the grace of God we are not in the homeless one’s position. We certainly have no idea what led to that person’s plight, and it is not our place to condemn. Instead, we can remember that God loves all sinners, even me. It would be good if we not only fostered a discussion about God’s guidance in our lives but also encouraged each other to assist our fellow human beings as God gives resources.
Scripture guides us in this. James wrote about a man who said he had faith and was approached by someone naked and destitute of daily food. The man gave nice words to the poor person: “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled.” Nevertheless, he did not provide clothing or food. James writes, “What doth it profit?” (2:15,16). We may say loving and true things to others, but if we are believing, we should also act according to our beliefs, even by sharing resources.
When we love others in both actions and words, we love them in truth and not as hypocrites. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Our gift of faith is then offered, through love, to both those in the house of God and to those who are yet being called.