Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
We’ve always been taught to be nice, haven’t we? From young, our parents taught us the importance of having good manners and being respectful of other people. We are scolded when we’re rude and disciplined when we’re unkind to others, and we’re taught to have compassion for those who are less fortunate than us.
All of these are good things, and children should be brought up to be nice and loving. These “good values” are indeed characteristics that ought to be inculcated in people from a young age. However, as we get older and see more of the world, many of us, being soft hearted and nice, tend to get stepped on, taken for granted, and hurt.
Over and over again, “good people” try to practice what we have been taught. Be nice. Be kind. Be compassionate. Turn the other cheek, right? In Luke 6:29, Jesus says, “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them,” and in Matthew 18:21-22, doesn’t Jesus tell Peter to forgive a brother or sister who sins against him seventy times seven times?
But to what end? It grows old, doesn’t it—letting people walk all over you and take advantage of you? At what point do we say, “Enough is enough?” Are we supposed to go through life getting slapped left and right and left and right? Doesn’t that make us spineless weaklings who just end up getting stabbed in the back, disappointed, cheated, and betrayed—to the extent that we end up becoming exhausted, cynical, bitter, and full of self-pity?
What then? We post things on Facebook that cry out, “Poor me! I’ve been used! I’ve been mistreated! Notice me! Love me!” And we feed off of our “friends’” comments of “I’m so sorry,” “I hope you feel better soon,” but really, those people are not going to stick around for long. They may feel bad, they may feel pity or even empathy, but at the end of the day, it’s up to us to pull ourselves out of that pit.
So what’s the catch? Are Jesus’ methods of loving people doomed to backfire? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe in His methods. I think that they have the power to draw people to Christ and to transform lives. The reason people who try so hard always end up getting hurt and worn out is because they are relying on their own strength to do the “right” thing.
One prevalent problem among Christians is that we tend to pull out certain verses in the Bible without fully understanding the entire context of the passage and then try to independently apply it to our lives.
But if we really look into the words of Jesus and the apostles, every command, every admonishment, and every instruction to “do” something is always given with the premise to love God first above all else—to seek Him first—to find joy in Him first.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. But first, love God. Love God, and then love others. It has always been that way. On our own, it is easy to love someone who loves us back. Jesus said in Luke 6:32, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” But loving difficult people is really something that requires a deep love that comes from an intimate relationship with God.
In his letters to the early churches, Paul constantly reminded them to rejoice in the Lord, and told them that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength. If not for the joy that Paul found in His love for Christ, he never would have been able to have the kind of ministry that he did. Paul by himself was not a very nice person. In fact, he was kind of bossy and offended many people. And if anyone had reasons to feel sorry for himself, Paul did.
He had many opportunities to sit around and mope, especially while he was in prison. Instead he used that time to love the churches of Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae through the epistles we find in Scripture today. Because he relied so completely on God for strength and because of the overflow of love that he had for Jesus, he was able to persevere and impact as many people for the Gospel as he did.
In Ephesians 4:22-24, several verses before he says to be kind and compassionate to one another, Paul reminds the Ephesian church:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
The pursuit of holiness and righteousness goes hand in hand with the pursuit of God Himself. God constantly tells us to seek Him, because He knows that when we find Him, our joy will be complete. That joy will spill over into the lives of those around us and we will naturally be nice, loving, kind, and all that good stuff without feeling like unappreciated trash.
In order to love others with the love of Christ, we must first fully experience that love for ourselves. Realistically, we know that we will never always be fully in tune with God. Sometimes life takes its toll on us and when that happens, it is important to go back to the foot of the cross and rest in His presence—find restoration and refreshment in Him so that He can fill the emptiness in us.
Because when we try to do the Christian thing without Christ in the center of our lives, that’s all we’re doing: the Christian thing. And it will backfire, it will burn you out, and you will feel like all that trying is pointless.
So stop trying to be nice. If your “niceness” is not coming from a deep-seated love for God, if you feel like it’s literally draining the life out of you, stop. Sure, God can use broken people. He does it all the time. But how much more useful will you be to Him if you were whole in Him? Find fulfillment in Him. Let His joy be your strength. Then you won’t have to try to be nice anymore; you’ll just be nice.
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