Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, how gracious You have been to send us the Holy Ghost, the Comforter from on high! How wonderful it is to bask in the warm glow of the love that He applies each and every day to our lives. Today we ask that You reawaken our consciences to our many sins so as to not grieve the Spirit! And thereby make us into role models of Your grace and kindness. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR BLESSED SAVIOR!
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 30—5:2
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Have you ever heard the expression: “Do as I say, don’t do as I do!”? Guilty parents sometimes say that to their kids when the children point out some hypocritical behavior, don’t they? Because we’re all flawed, none of us want to be considered “role models” for others to emulate. Nonetheless, many find themselves in that role. Why? Because people, especially young kids crave such role models. So, do you want your kids to “Be like Mike?” Or, to be like Kobe? Or, to be like Nomar? Do you want them to be like Brittany? Or to emulate Beyonce Knowles of MTV fame? Are those people positive role models? Do they espouse a lifestyle that is Godly and uplifting, or not? Well, I think you know the answer.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. With that truism in mind, St. Paul exhorts each of you to:
BE A GODLY ROLE MODEL BY NOT GRIEVING THE SPIRIT!
In this section of his epistle, St. Paul is writing to Christians who by God’s grace have renounced the flawed human approach to life in favor of God’s way of living. Thus, he is actually writing this is you and me, too. Listen to what he says. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
When I grew up, the hardest thing to face was not being punished for some misdeed, it was the look of pure disappointment on my parent’s face. Grieving a loved one really hurts. Pushing their love away through anger, or pride is the height of foolishness. Here Paul reminds us not to fall into that trap when it comes to our relationship with the Holy Spirit. And to avoid such unhappiness, he lists some specific sins which we need to recognize and avoid in our lives.
“Get rid of all bitterness.” I’ve known bitter people. Maybe they don’t pucker up their faces, but their inner resentment is obvious if you look closely. When you internalize anger to the point that you become bitter, you’re ugly inside. You’ve pushed love away from your heart to the point that only anger, brawling (physical violence) and slander live inside. Such behavior distorts everything you do and say. It robs you of joy and contentment. It ends up hurting you far more than the people you’re out to settle a score with. And since “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” such bitterness causes God to avert His eyes and His hands of grace. And then that downward spiral of bitterness only gets worse and worse.
Obviously God has a better idea for us. It is this. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” When faced with evil people who have hurt you, what should you do? Well, the best advice is ask God to handle the problem in His own way and then turn your attention toward your fellow believers. Immerse yourself in showering love and compassion on those who really need it and appreciate it. We know all about forgiveness. After all, we’re all recipients of Christ’s forgiveness won for us at the expense of His life. We didn’t ask for it. We don’t deserve it. None of us has earned it by our “good” behavior. No, Jesus earned it for us by dying for our sins—our bitterness, rage, anger, and malice on the cross. But, Paul also includes another word, compassion, that needs to be looked at a bit more closely. In the original language of the New Testament, this word “compassion” has as its core meaning: “coming from the gut.” Couple it with kindness, as Paul does, and you have a powerful picture of an all-encompassing kindness stemming from the core of your being which seeks to show itself in everything. It is often said that: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” That’s true. But it is also true that Christians will exhibit a core goodness which overshadows their imperfections because they literally have the love of Christ in their gut!
So, whether you want to be or not, by God’s grace you are His role model on this earth! So show it! “Be imitators (literally “mimic”) of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
The one role model who will never, ever, disappoint you is Jesus Christ. He never held a grudge. He never slandered another to build Himself up. He never let the ingratitude and hate of others lead Him into bitterness. Instead, He forgave and forgot our sins. From the core of His being He poured and pours forth love and compassion toward every single one of us. He not only talked the talk, but He also walked the walk. And by His grace He’s given you and me the power to do likewise! And when we do, when we value each fellow Christian as special to God, thereby sacrificing our pettiness on His altar of love, everyone sees the results. Even the unbelievers who have hurt us take note of our new-found status as role models for God. The result being—sometimes they, too, can learn to repent and change their way of life.
Are any of us up to this highest of callings? No. Not by ourselves. Nonetheless, since the Spirit has armed us with God’s grace, we really can strive to be such Godly role models. After all, doesn’t the Bible say: “I can do all things through Him Who gives me strength?” And doesn’t it also say: “With God all things are possible?” In conclusion, all I can say is: may our blessed Savior grant such power of Godly life unto us all! Amen