After the love of his life passed away, 96-year-old Fred wrote her a song.
After the love of his life passed away, 96-year-old Fred wrote her a song.
One of the best ways to improve our communication is to replace destructive tones with constructive ways of speaking to each other.
Words of appreciation and encouragement are excellent alternatives to ugly tones of grumbling, whining; impatience, frustration and defensiveness.
Think of how many times we could defuse a situation by choosing better words and tones. Parents especially need to ask if their words and tones set the right example for their children.
Use Formula E429 to remind yourself of God’s will for our speech. The formula is based on Ephesians 4:29 – “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT).
Then apply a large dose of the first two characteristics of love: “Love is patient, Love is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4).
This could literally change your life and the lives of those close to you!
This advice comes with a warning about how easily we excuse our attitudes, words and tones by pointing to the difficult people around us. Remember the basic truth that the only person you can change is yourself. But by working on self-correction and experiencing personal change, we can powerfully influence others. So if you feel stuck in a bad place, find ways that you can change your attitudes, words and tones. But start with the words and tones you use because this discipline will make you face and confront your attitudes and emotions.
Recognize how all of this change fits under the work God is doing in your life based on these truths:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:17-18, NIV).
“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13).
I have work to do. Will you join me?
See also: Spiritual Depression
“Do everything in love” (I Corinthians 16:14). How can we do this? Go back to the best definition of love available to us:
I Corinthians 13:4-8
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV).
Those who practice this kind of love minimize conflict because love is anti-rivalry. Playful rivalry keeps life interesting and fun but when rivalry becomes selfish it violates true love and destroys unity and community.
A closer look at love
1. Love is patient: It is long-suffering. It restrains anger when provoked. Patience is more than passive waiting. It’s active restraint in the moment of provocation. God is patient (Romans 2:5; II Peter 3:9).
2. Love is kind: It reaches out in good will with acts of care and concern. Love not only patiently forebears, but through kindness, actively pursues. Loving people are distinguished by their kindness. God is kind — even to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35-36; Titus 3:4-5)
3. Love does not envy: It does not resent the blessings of others. Envious people engage in evil rivalry. The envier gloats over the harm or misfortune of the envied. Enviers delight in evil.
4. Love does not boast: Love corrects the desire to call attention to self. A loving person is not a windbag or braggart. He does not parade himself. Love is willing to work anonymously. It needs no limelight or stage, applause or recognition.
5. Love is not proud: not puffed up; not arrogant; not full of oneself. A loving person does not think more highly of himself than sober judgment dictates (Romans 12:3).
6. Love is does not dishonor others: It is not rude. It is respectful of others.
7. Love is not self-seeking: It does not insist on its own way. It is not self-absorbed.
8. Love is not easily angered: It is not easily agitated nor easily provoked. Loving people are not hot-tempered, short-fused people.
9. Love keeps no record of wrongs: Love seeks forgiveness and reconciliation. When hurt badly, this part of love is hard to practice.
10. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: This rules out gossip, slander, and Schadenfreude (delight in the downfall of others).
Love’s grand finale - Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres.
There is nothing love cannot face and endure. Four verbs (protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres) offer repeated emphasis on how love brings everything under its influence. Love is tenacious and faithful. Love is positive and hopeful. Love is brave and noble; it never fails.
“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us” (Ephesians 5:2).
“We human beings are a strange lot. We hear high moral injunctions and glimpse just a little the genuine beauty of perfect holiness, and then prostitute the vision by dreaming about the way others would hold us in high esteem if we were like that” (D. A. Carson).
People who habitually do this tend to draw attention to the sins, faults, weaknesses and failures of others. This is the comparison trap that can easily produce the spirit of the Pharisee who thanked God he’s not like other men. Legalism provides people with a deceptive means for screening out their own sins by highlighting the sins of others.
Let’s oppose this spirit on every level because it insults the grace that leads us to salvation.
Remember Jesus words, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Jesus condemned hypocritical judging. He insisted that we must “first” remove the log from our own eye before we’re prepared to notice and remove the speck from our brother’s eye.
If you know someone who has a habit of pointing out the sins, faults, weaknesses and failures of others, recognize that this could be a cover up for issues in his own life or a means of exalting himself over others. People who are insecure or who always feel a need to be right or to know more than others are especially susceptible to this behavior.
Gently encourage such people to reflect on the Apostle Paul’s words, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:3-5).
“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (I Peter 5:5-6).
Dating tends to be a time when people conceal information that marriage will inevitably reveal. This is one reason why we need to guard our hearts and use our brains.
Let your head lead your heart
Do not give your heart to anyone until your head has processed the necessary data to tell you that you are making a wise decision. If you give your heart to a bad relationship, it will be very difficult to talk your head out of it.
Someone once recommended that we should focus on becoming the person that the person we’re looking for is looking for. Start by becoming the person that your future spouse needs. This will more likely lead you to attract and be attracted to the right kind of person.
Develop a mature understanding of love
When couples understand that marriage is not about being in love but an agreement to love; not about feeling loved but truly valuing each other, then they will find the path to deeply meaningful companionship. And (as a result) they usually experience the feelings of love that follow the choice to be loving.
One of the greatest obstacles to loving companionship in marriage is our cultural obsession with personal happiness as a fundamental right – if not, a sign of true mental health. Don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting we become stoic realists skeptical of pleasure and enjoyment. But I am saying that true and lasting satisfaction come from a refusal to treat felt needs as the highest priorities of life.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Phil. 2:3-5).
When a couple takes the traditional marriage vows, they acknowledge three essentials parts to the relationship of marriage.
Marriage is a relationship of extraordinary care (I promise to love, comfort, honor, and cherish), sexually exclusivity (forsaking all others), and permanency (as long as you both shall live) between a man (to be your husband) and a woman (to be your wife).
1. Extraordinary Care
In the vows, a couple of promise to “love, comfort, honor, and keep” each other in any of life’s circumstances: “in joy and in sorrow, in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health.” Couples making this promise don’t intend to care for each other only when times are good. They promise to care for each other when times are bad as well. And if, at the time of the wedding, one of them refused to make that promise, few would be willing to go through with the ceremony.
2. Sexual Exclusivity
When a couple marry, they promise to “forsake all others” and be “faithful” to each other—sexually. Faithfulness in marriage is so fundamental to the marriage agreement that when the vow is broken, most marriages go into a free fall. Infidelity ranks as one of the most painful experiences of a betrayed spouse’s life. Anyone who knew at the time of their wedding that their spouse would eventually have an affair would refuse to marry that person. It’s that important to remain faithful.
Affairs do not harm just marriages—they also harm children. A child also feels betrayed by a parent who cheats and then lies about it. Can you think of a worse example to a developing child than an unfaithful father or mother?
A couple who marry promise to remain together “as long as we both shall live,” and that promise is essential to marriage for a host of reasons. The most important reason is that stability and continuity are required for raising children successfully. If a couple were told on the day of their wedding that they would divorce when their children were young and needed them the most, they would stop the ceremony. Even if a couple knew they could only avoid divorce until their children became adults, I’m not sure they would agree to be married. That’s because marriage creates interdependence — both spouses come to need each other in order to thrive. A divorce at any stage of life rips them apart, damaging both of them.
Have you ever thought of forgiveness as an act of worship?
Jesus said, “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25).
Forgiveness is the choice not to hold things against another. Forgiveness is absent when one holds things against another. This is what we call resentment and it is a root cause behind many personal and societal problems. It’s the tendency to bear grudges and it often leads to revenge.
Many people go through life collecting grievances (perceived or actual) and then storing them in their memory bank — specifically, in what I call their grudge account. Rather than forgiving an offender, they choose to nurse their anger; to lick their wounds and to sludge in their grudge.
This way of life is rarely traveled alone because misery enjoys company. It validates our resentment when we can find people to commiserate with us in our grievances by swapping grudge stories. Some throw pity parties to seek solidarity with others in their resentments.
Those who habitually collect perceived rather than actual grievances are in a different category. These people behave in narcissistic pathologically paranoid ways. They’re narcissistic because they think people think about them more than people do and pathologically paranoid because they imagine people are continually against them. They people who are self-destructively self-absorbed and must come to even deeper levels of repentance by embracing Jesus’ call to self-denial.
“Forgive him?!” “Not after what he did to me!”
But Jesus’ words “Forgive him” are hard to hear when you’ve been badly hurt. I recall more than once, people responding, “Forgive him?!” “Not after what he did to me!”
Does Jesus ask us to become morally neutral about the wrongful and damaging behavior of others? Is he asking us to pretend nothing happened and let our offender off the hook?
One thing is clear from Jesus’ words, whatever else forgiveness involves, it’s the opposite of “holding something against” someone. Forgiveness requires an act of “letting go” or “releasing”— a refusal to “hold against”.
Empty your grudge account
But this act of releasing is not a superficial or feigned act of erasing or ignoring the wrong committed against us. Letting go of an offense does not require moral neutrality about right and wrong. We’re not required to let the offense go into some imaginary zone of forgetfulness.
Forgiving is an act of worship that takes place in the presence of the God who is the righteous judge of all the earth. Forgiveness is an act of releasing the offense to the God who said, “Do not take revenge, …but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
I am suggesting that forgiveness is first and foremost a matter between you and God, not you and your offender.
When someone hurts us, we tend only to see the horizontal significance of what occurred. “This is about me and the one who hurt me!” we insist. For those who worship God, however, life is primarily about God and secondarily about them. In the rest of Mark 11:25, Jesus reminded us that even our grievances must be dealt with in relation to God: “…if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Do we earn God’s forgiveness?
When Jesus related forgiving others to God forgiving our sins, was he suggesting some form of conditional or earned system of forgiveness? Is this a quid pro qo arrangement (favor for favor)? No! Our forgiveness from God is based on God’s undeserved favor received through Jesus Christ. It’s not that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, but that God expects His forgiven people to forgive. When forgiven people don’t forgive, God is not worshipped— He is dishonored (See: Matthew 18:21-35).
This is where worship connects with forgiveness. When we forgive, we “let go of” instead of “holding on to” or “holding against.”
Forgiveness is an act of releasing to God the hurtful actions and consequences of the wrong done to us. God has sole prerogative of vengeance (Romans 12:19). If the one who hurts us is to be punished, it is God’s right to punish him. When sinned against, turn to God and worship Him by acknowledging His authority as Judge. Acknowledge that any judgment against the one who wronged you is His right — not yours.
Forgiveness as worship is not surrendering or neutralizing our sense of morality and justice. This is not a cheap “letting off the hook” of the one who hurt us. It’s not a mental exercise in forgetting or a feigned effort to trivialize evil by saying, “O well, we’re all sinners.” It’s an act of worship before the final Judge.
On this view, forgiveness is not solely about me – what happened to me and who did it. It’s about God—who He is and His authority as Judge.
Worshipping God, not using Him
Forgiveness is an act of releasing to God what rightly belongs to him. Since God is “the Judge of all the earth who will do what is right,” releasing to God places the offence in the purest context of judgment. Forgiving is releasing the grievance and the offender to God’s all-knowing perspective and to the perfect balanced of justice and mercy. This honors God by placing matters into His hands and His timing.
But this approach to forgiveness must not be corrupted into a “God will get you” mentality. Worship is not an effort to use God; it’s an act of humbling yourself before Him.
When forgiveness becomes worship, the offended person humbles herself before God honoring and confessing Him as judge and trusting Him to uphold His judgment as He chooses and in His time.
In this act of “letting go” or “releasing to God,” the one who forgives is also released and empowered to live out the radical prescription of Romans 12:20-21: “On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. …. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Punishment of wrongdoers
Please don’t leave this subject with the final words from Romans 12. The connection with Romans 13 is important in any discussion of forgiveness. According to Romans 13:1-4, sometimes God executes His wrath (compare 12:19) and punishment of wrongdoers through the agency of human government (see esp. Romans 13:4). This strengthens the point that forgiveness is not a matter of moral neutrality.
When the one who wrongs you receives punishment from a God-ordained authority, it’s right to support and honor the role of government in punishing wrongdoers (see: I Peter 2:13). We honor this role of authority for the glory of God and the good of society. Yet endorsement of just-punishment must never be sought as a means for vindictive and vengeful intention. If tempted toward this response, turn to God is worship based on Romans 12:18-21.
When we’ve been wronged and the punishment of the wrong-doer becomes a matter for human government, we cannot sincerely support such punishment with the right spirit until we prayerfully apply the teaching of Romans 12:18-21.
This is an invitation for those who bear grudges to worship God as the only rightful judge of evil. Turn your grudge over to the Judge! Recite His deep moral opposition to the evil committed against you and surrender every desire for revenge to His prerogative in punishing evil (Romans 12:19).
If God chooses to (or involves you in) mediating His judgment through ordained human authority, honor and support those authorities for fulfilling their divine role (see: Romans 13:1-4), but check your heart against seeking false and destructive satisfaction through personal revenge.
The connection between Romans 12 and 13 offers the important reminder that forgiveness does not require a surrender of our sense of right and wrong.
We need the grace of God to apply these truths with sincerity and humility.
“God, please help me to worship you when I’ve been hurt by others. You have forgiven my sins and each day I remind myself that you have not dealt with me as my sins deserve. I release my grudge to the Judge and trust you with the outcome.
8 short clips from my daily programs on WJTL 90.3 FM
We need more emphasis on the glory of living ordinary lives for Christ. Perhaps it could become the new radical!
The emphasis we’ve seen on being radical Christians could lead to a feeling that what is ordinary is either boring or some form of compromise. This could then produce a larger chasm between what the Church says and the way most people must live day by day.
It also has the potential of threatening the joy of daily life with the spirit of discontentment that promoted the sin of Eden.
Listen to the way people tell you what they do.
On and on it goes. But maybe there is no “just” with God? Or, more likely, God is found in the “just.” Jesus asked, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
A needed message in our times
I fear that we’ve lost touch with the glory and joy of being called to faithfulness and diligence in the ordinary routines and duties of life. What would life look like if we renewed our zeal to “… be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
I think of Jesus’ emphasis on serving God quietly in secret places. “Be careful” He said, “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6).
We need renewed zeal for the quiet glory of being faithful fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, neighbors, employers, employees, — just common followers of Jesus Christ living ordinary lives for an extraordinary glory.
“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Have we lost touch with the joy of ordinary, non-glamorous devotion to God and others because we’ve lived with an “If only….” spirit of restlessness? Have we overly radicalized wholehearted love for God and our neighbor by separating it from daily faithfulness in mundane but necessary duties?
Jesus said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10).
Jesus required unconcern for status as a kingdom virtue. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5).
“Stop being un-amazed by the strange glory of ordinary things” (Clyde Kilby).