Handling Other People with the Gospel of Jesus - Part TwoThursday, September 10, 2009
As I just stated, the gospel glove of forgiveness is like a work-glove. It is rough and tough. It is caloused. It can handle anything, take anything, receive anything. Forgiveness is that leather palm that covers the heart protecting it from resentment, bitterness, and malice. When the Christian is wearing this, he can handle even the most prickly and barbed person around. Paul ended the fourth chapter of Ephesians this way.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
The other glove is a velvet glove. It is the gospel glove of forbearance. It is tender and soft with those who are different from us...those we normally reserve adjectives like "strange" and "wierd" for. But they're just different...from us. Normally it's things like personality conflicts that get in the way in these cases. Other people just rub us the wrong way. And with these folks, we must handle them gently, humbly, and patiently. Here's the way Paul began this same chapter.
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
Someone might easily mistake that the gloves ought to be reversed...that the gospel glove of forbearance is like the work-glove, and forgiveness like the velvet glove. Though that is normally how we see it, that's not the way of the cross.
Forbearance is not rough and tough, simply "putting up" with somebody cause we have to. And forgiveness is not smooth and soft because that would deny the intense pains and hurts we cause each other in our relationships.
No, the Christian must forbear patiently with gentleness, and forgive each other with diligent hard work. That's the real work of Christian unity. And that's why Paul began the statement in Eph. 4:3 with the Greek word, spoudazo, which means "to spare no effort, to hold nothing back." Unity is something every Christian must give their all to...all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. And that unity is obtained and maintained by forgiving each others' sins, and by forbearing with each others' differences.