Ephesians 4:32 – And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.
We see so much strife and anger in this day and age. People are spending inordinate amounts of time and energy endorsing popular slogans, political parties, and national movements for or against some agenda or another. To our collective shame, much of it is also stemming from those who claim to be believers, those who say they have trusted in the God of the Bible.
Our age of social unrest is little different than that of the first century believers. Besides being caught up in one of the most revolutionary times in the life of God’s people, they were also subject to political wrangling not only of Rome, but of their own countrymen. Civil disputes, especially among themselves, were rampant; in many respects the nation was on the verge of civil war. The Jewish state had rarely been as factious and divisive politically, and families were pitted against one another.
Yet into this fray, Paul writes that believers should be kind and compassionate, forgiving one another. They should be nice people in a world that is not nice.
Colossians 3:12-13 – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.
Critical to this “niceness” is the idea that their forgiveness should be patterned on the forgiveness that God offered them. If we take Paul’s advice at face value and look to God’s precedent and pattern of forgiveness, we may be able to see some ways that we can faithfully represent him as his people in this world.
Psalm 103:8-14 – Yahweh is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever. He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.
First of all, God is stated to be abounding in chesed, the Hebrew word for kindness and faithful goodness.
He is slow to anger. His patience is long and he is willing to suspend judgment until absolutely necessary.
Even when his anger is expressed, it is momentary and brief in the overall scope of his dealings with mankind. His anger does not linger with slow-burning constancy.
When he does express his justice at unfaithfulness, it is not as would be deserved; it is comparatively light for the injustice that has been committed.
Most importantly, when he forgives, it is complete. It is illustrated as being as far as east is from west; complete opposites that stretch away infinitely from one another.
Certainly within the family of believers, he chooses to relate to us a compassionate parent, not as an authoritarian stranger. His compassion for the bond of faith is as of a loving parent to his children.
Ultimately, his dealings with mankind are based on the generous and sobering understanding that we are temporary individuals, we are not permanent to this time and place.
If we could learn to review, accept, and enact God’s principles, forgiving others in the same manner he is forgiving of us, imagine how we could be a force for good and “niceness” in the world today. By applying the same type of faithfulness and compassion with others, and certainly among the family of believers, we could have lasting impact in our efforts to reduce strife and anger in our world.
We are all only here for a short amount of time as temporary pin-points of light within an entire galaxy of humanity. Let’s remember we are all dust, extending God’s kindness and mercy, his chesed, while we can.
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