I want to address at least a couple of the areas in which Christians should truly be different than the rest of the world. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a vital list. Its vitality is seen in its relationship to the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Addressing these areas should not be taken as pointing the finger at other people because these are things that all Christians, including me, struggle to consistently practice. These blogs are as much for me as anyone else. Hear me preaching to myself first and foremost! I am just allowing you to listen in on the conversation.
I truly believe that one of the most important traits that Christians must exhibit is forgiveness. It is not a trait that is easy or comes naturally. By nature we are self-centered and seek to protect ourselves and our reputation at all costs. We do not like being hurt, taken advantage of, talked about, or the victims of any other actions that can be viewed as attacks.
When we are hurt by others, disappointed by others, attacked by others, or wronged by others, we often become angry. We sometimes strike back out verbally or physically. If we refrain from these actions, we internalize emotions and harbor resentment and bitterness. We see ourselves as totally innocent victims that do not deserve any such treatment. We tend to see ourselves as generally good people that always treat others with love, respect, patience, kindness, tenderness, and other favorable attitudes. You see we actually overlook our own failures, inconsistencies, sins, and shortcomings very easily. We have no trouble “clearly seeing” the faults of others and even “infallibly discerning” their motives. (Hopefully you can identify the sarcasm.) We observe the speck in the eyes of others in spite of the log in our own eyes (Matt. 7:3-5).
When we turn our gaze on ourselves and view ourselves as victims, we are going to become defensive and be prone to be bitter and resentful when people treat us in a less than loving or kind manner. Our gaze and focus must not be on our own honor and glory. As Christians, our focus and gaze is to be on the honor and glory of Christ. Our vision of ourselves is true and accurate only as we see ourselves in light of the cross of Christ! It is in the truth of God’s light that we have true and proper understanding (Psalm 36:9).
How does a view of ourselves in light of the cross change the conclusions we reach? We see and are reminded that outside of God’s grace in Christ, we are totally unworthy of forgiveness and redemption (Romans 3:9-18; Eph. 2:1-3). We, in our natural state, could never save ourselves (John 3:3; 6:44, 65; Romans 5:8; 8:5-8). God saves us by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2:4-10; Rom. 3:21-26; Titus 3:5; 2 Tim. 1:9; John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). Those are basic truths of the Gospel that are foundational for accepting and embracing the redemption in Christ. A person must understand, embrace, and rely on these truths if he/she is to be saved. (There are more aspects to the Gospel, but for the sake of this article, only these are mentioned.)
The fact of the matter is that these same truths are essential for living the Christian life out on a daily basis. We must renew our minds with these truths everyday so as not to become prideful, arrogant, discouraged, depressed, bitter, resentful, enslaved to legalism, and hosts of other anti-Gospel attitudes. No person, except Christ, has ever been without sin. All of these sinful people deserve only hell. They cannot do one thing to save themselves. All people that are saved from hell are saved by God’s grace alone, and this comes to them through the gift of faith. It, and every other benefit of the Gospel, was purchased by Christ. The only thing that any person contributes to his/her salvation is sin (Martin Luther).
If that truth is kept before me everyday and I view my relationships through that lens, I will be empowered to forgive others when, not if, I am hurt or attacked. I cry out to God for the grace to forgive others because he forgave me. Although others may have intended to hurt me and don’t deserve my forgiveness, I willingly rebelled against God and don’t deserve His forgiveness.
Christians are called and commanded to forgive others (Matthew 6:12-15; Matthew 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:32) and walk according to the example of our Savior, Jesus (Eph. 5:1-2). Forgiving others is not an option for Christians. It is commanded by God.
In our own strength, it is impossible to obey this command. We cannot grit our teeth and muster up the strength. We are to pray and ask God for the grace to forgive others as we have been forgiven by Him. We are to renew our minds to the truth of the Gospel when we are tempted to focus on our perceived right to be angry or resentful. We don’t have that right as children and bond-servants of Christ. We forfeited those rights at the cross.
Trust me. I know this is not easy and requires us to die to ourselves on a daily basis. Nevertheless, it is what our LORD has called us to do. This, as well as every aspect of life, is for God’s glory. When we willingly and gladly embrace the forfeiting of our rights for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, God’s glory is magnified more clearly.