God gives gifts so that they may be shared, endowing others with blessings that were given us.
Perhaps it is because of my early education as an engineer, but my mind is attracted to parallelisms in the Bible. Take for example, the "blessed to be a blessing" concept in God's call to Abraham in Genesis 12: 1-4 and what Paul said in his letter to Titus about having received God's grace and mercy in Christ; "therefore, now live the life of grace and mercy by word and deed." Throughout scriptures, God seems to be saying clearly that whatever we have received from him is what we are to share with others. It is not enough to sing about God's Amazing Grace, we are to treat others with the same kind of amazing grace.
What is grace any way? Basically, grace is God's love in action, which was supremely shown to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To treat others with this kind of graciousness means in a negative way not to show malice, envy, revenge, scorn, hatred, jealousy, greed, lust, contempt, condemnation or destructive criticism; and in a positive way to show forgiveness, compassion, understanding, goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience, mercy, forbearance, praise and gratitude.
One of the highest compliments we can give others is to say what gracious people they are. These are the people who try hard to avoid being condemning, devious, highly critical and negative toward others. They give others the benefit of the doubt and are willing to let bygones be bygones. They do not hold grudges. They accept the fact that no one is perfect; therefore, they do not expect that perfection in themselves or others that belongs alone to God.
There are times when we are tempted to spread a gossipy story about someone else. When I am so tempted, I have to remind myself, "Now, your momma taught you better: `If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all.' "
As a member of a Rotary Club, I have come to value what they call "The 4-Way Test." Before we say or do something, we are to ask ourselves: "Is it TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL AND BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?" We Rotarians are encouraged to apply these questions every day. We will become a better employer or employee, a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better church member, and a better citizen.
Paul's reminder to Titus is one we need to hear from time to time: our need to be more intentional and demonstrative about living as God wants us to live. Following God's example, "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us," may we, too, be more pro-active in initiating our graciousness toward others by the things we say and do.
Like all other requirements of God, we have the blessed promise that God's spirit will help us grow in becoming more gracious in our dealings with others. All we have to do to receive that empowerment is to admit to God that we need his help.
We are told that God's grace is sufficient for our every need. In a small way, the parallelism here could be that if our gracious attitude is made manifest through our words and deeds, then it could be said that our grace can go a long way toward making life brighter, more hopeful, and joyful for the people around us.
Gene Norris is a Presbyterian minister who specializes in marriage and family therapy.
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