DAILY LIVING WITH PRICKLY PEOPLE
We need guidelines to live this servant life as Jesus depicts – and lovingly commands – for us. Naturally, there is only one place to look for guidance – the Word He has left us.
32 And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.
– Ephesians 4:32 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
If you missed any part of this series, Servanthood to Each Other, click on one of the available links below to check them out from the beginning.
- SERVANTHOOD IN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: TO EACH OTHER
- Servanthood to Each Other – Part II “The Last Supper: Sinky Feet”
There are reasons why, on occasion, I prefer using the Amplified version of the Bible: it’s rather like getting an accompanying commentary with the verse you’re studying. This verse is a good example of that. How do I learn to become a better servant? Look at the verse and the words in it: useful, helpful, kind, tender hearted, compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted, readily and freely forgiving one another. Hold those attributes. – those fruits of the Spirit – before the Lord and ask Him to change your heart, to make you ever true, until you are like Him. Those attributes are the characteristics of a servant. In reality, the most important part of that verse in the ending. In another version it reads like thus: forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you. Read that carefully. One time in my life The Lord had me read it very carefully. There was a woman that a number of us knew – a very prickly person. She would telephone you to apologize about something minor she had said that was hurtful, that was easily forgivable, and then end the phone conversation by saying something so incredibly hurtful that it would take your breath away. And then she would hang up the phone. This was her normal practice. To make things worse, she never apologized for the words she spoke at the end. She did this to a number of the gentlest, sweetest people I knew and her remarks deeply wounded them. Believe it or not, I thank the Lord for her – and so do the rest of the women I know who came in contact with her. Why? Because from her we learned how to forgive according to the command of the last part of that verse: “forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” We all found out that we can forgive anyone anything because God has forgiven us everything! The night that I found that out was one of the most freeing, peaceful, grateful times of my life! I praise God for that woman and pray for her whenever I think about her. Once I forgave her according to the principle of Eph 4: 32 the Lord let me discover that her family life was so unhappy that it resulted in a deep need for love and acceptance which she never seemed to receive. I found myself feeling such sorrow for her and wanting to love her as much as possible.
HOW FULL IS OUR FORGIVENESS WHEN WE’VE BEEN HURT?
Having discussed the reason listed in Ephesians 4:32 to forgive others, let’s take a serious look at the errors in our lives mentioned in verse 31:
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
– Ephesians 4:31 New International Version (NIV)
Can you look at each one of those words and know that you can stand not guilty before the Lord? Sadly, I know that I cannot. A former Pastor once entitled a sermon: “ Who Would You Like to See Fail?”. The answer: It’s the person you haven’t forgiven. He then delivered the second “punch” of this sermon with the question: “How Full is Your Forgiveness When You’ve Been Hurt?”. His comment was that we often try to play God by only allowing 90% forgiveness to others instead of the full forgiveness God allows us. That sermon surfaced a sin in my life where I had done exactly what he said, much to my shame.
This is from an incident involving dear friends that caused years of pain and yet, by His grace, became one of the most wonderful lessons the Lord ever taught me. This is how it played out insofar as the topics of jealousy, pain, and finally forgiveness, are concerned. I’ll call “the sinner” Mary. At least that’s what I called her for about two years. Now I call her my blessing.
(My conversation with the Lord about “the sinner”, Mary):
“Lord, You know how badly Mary hurt me and it was worse because the hurt not only involved me but members of my family and that pain was sooo awful. Therefore, God, since You always forgive 100% of my sins all the time when I ask You to, I ask that You forgive me 100% of my sins in this situation too, especially, because I was hurt so bad. All these years I’ve prayed mercy for Mary and said I was sorry but since she was the one who hurt me and my family so badly, I just don’t think she deserves all Your forgiveness, maybe 80 or 90% would be enough because my pain was so bad and her sin was so great.” (How strange that I could have pain, but she had sin!)
Then God took the blinders off my eyes and showed me how horribly I was sugar-coating my sin by calling it pain. God showed me I was playing God! I was in sin – HE was telling me I was – but I was coming off, in my eyes, as the poor little hurt person. In His faithfulness He had let me have this gnawing feeling inside me that I hadn’t fully forgiven her but I wasn’t seeing it in the correct perspective. I realized that the pain inside me wasn’t because I was wounded but because I was in sin. I was still holding a grudge against her after two years! In my heart I knew that I thought she was guilty of all the sins in Eph 4: 31 like bitterness and jealousy towards my family. However, I was equally guilty of those same sins towards her. After, in His mercy and love, He gave me the eyes of truth to see the sins as sins and confess them, I was no longer in pain. Mary is now a blessing in my life and one from whom I learned a much needed lesson on total forgiveness.
Both these cases require total honesty before the Lord. Real forgiveness from the Lord means opening up your whole heart and exposing everything to Him. If you had an abscessed tooth, it would do you no good if the dentist only removed 90% of the abscess. You would still be in danger of infection from the remainder of the germs that were present. No matter how unpleasant the procedure, the dentist must get all the abscess removed to ensure a healthy tooth. So, too, must you allow the Lord to go way down deep to the root of your sin to remove all of it. Only then are you healthy and clean before Him and free of your sin.
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Featured Image: “Peninnah torments Hannah” This illustration are the copyright of Sweet Publishing and licenses by FreeBibleimages for free download under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike 3.0 unported license. http://www.freebibleimages.org.
I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Michelle Arrington, Hannah Hall, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, Tracy Yoder, and J.P.Wilhelm. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.