“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)
Easy, right? Hardly. This is just about one of the hardest callings.
You toss potato salad at my face? I smile and speak in an angelic tone to soothe you.
You throw me under the bus with my boss and steal my promotion? I make allowance for your mistake and let go.
You con me out of all my money? I humbly confront you with words of kindness.
How is this possible?
Not by my own strength, I’ll tell you. My own strength would have you pressed up against the wall with a lesson stuffed down your throat. It is not easy to respond with humility, gentleness, patience and allowance for mistakes.
In fact, it’s pretty much impossible.
All our righteous acts are like filthy rags… (Is. 64:6)
It’s impossible by our own strength because we are weak. We either muster up humble-arrogance, which looks a whole lot like pious Christianity, or brute force, which ruins relationships. Either way, the result is not from God and it’s quite ugly.
…For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Phil. 2:3
God works in us and God wills us to act out his good purpose. God moves then we move forward in love.
Yet, I often live backwards-grace. This is where I muster up good within myself and force it on the world. It usually ends up looking a whole lot like manipulation rather than ministry. Yuck.
Backwards-grace is fruitless. It leaves Christians dejected, demoralized and discouraged. It flat-out doesn’t work. What does work is getting with Savior. Seeking his heart. Letting him mend yours. Allowing him to grow you. Returning again to the wealth of his truth. Letting his grace cover your failings. And then, from the place of heart-change, allowing that very shift, within you, to work kindness, patience and humility into the world.
If you let God into your heart, you’ll find he changes it.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Ps. 51:10