One is tempted here to ask a rhetorical question: “What would the world be like if a critical mass of those of us who call ourselves Christians were really living in this way all the time, every day?”
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
There is in this short passage both empowerment and consolation. This is as simple and as precise a description of the Christ life as one can find. Be kind, be compassionate, and forgive as you have been forgiven. One is tempted here to ask a rhetorical question: “What would the world be like if a critical mass of those of us who call ourselves Christians were really living in this way all the time, every day?”
Today’s verse is the last verse of chapter 4 in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It follows a long list of suggestions about how we ought not behave. We are to put away lying, to not let the sun set on our anger, giving the devil opportunities to drag us down. We are told to turn away from stealing, from any kind of corrupted speech, like slander or gossip. We are to do nothing to “grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom we sealed for the day of redemption.” (verse 30) We ought not have any kind of malice in our minds and hearts. Then, in verse 32, we are given the antidote to all of those things; the habits of kindness, compassion and forgiveness.
We have in God, both a model for how to do this in Jesus, and an Advocate, in the Holy Spirit, to help us in our daily efforts to become holy, to answer our calling to be saints. To know Jesus is to want to be with him and to emulate him with our very lives. The desire to do so is a gift of faith. The power to do so is also a gift from God, it is called grace. It is our willing desire to bend our wills to the will of God that opens the doors of our hearts to receive that grace. God responds instantly, generously, and mercifully to our desire to follow him.
Kindness is our response to God’s grace. It is a desire to do good for others, to treat them as we would wish to be treated ourselves. It is one of the actions of love. The compassion that Jesus calls us to is more than merely feeling sorry for someone. It is to suffer with them, to work together with them to alleviate the causes of their suffering, or to bear it with them, to never let them be alone. But even more importantly, our greatest act of love in the Christian life is the act of forgiveness. Jesus calls on us to forgive as he did. Because we are sinners, we have many occasions in which we need either the forgiveness of the other, or where we need to offer true forgiveness to one who may have done us harm. The habits of kindness and compassion help us to be forgiving. If our faith is sincere, God will give us the graces we need to become kind, compassionate and forgiving in the way he was, and still is, with us.
Lord, teach us to love you more dearly every day by helping us in our efforts to learn and to practice the habits of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. In you, Jesus, we place our hope and our faith. Amen!
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