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Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God …

For a long time as a believer, I wondered what “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” meant. Somehow, I had missed the fact that this phrase was tucked in between the exhortations to build up others, to steer clear of bitterness and slander, and to be kind and forgiving.

Fact: Unkind words cause God grief.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:29-32

It’s pretty clear that bitterness, anger, slander, criticism, and all such forms of negativity break God’s heart. They don’t belong in the spirit-filled believer. At all. Paul tells us that kindness, compassion, and grace are to be our response to the offenses and imperfections of others.

Before I came to faith in Christ, bitter words spewed easily from me (see THIS post). But even long after I became a believer, I didn’t hesitate to be critical of people, freely listing their faults and flaws to myself and others. And then about 15 years ago, I was blessed to work with an exceptional pastor, a man who consistently modeled grace and compassion day after day. Not only did he exemplify positive attributes, he also didn’t engage in negative, critical conversations. I instantly took note. His lack of engagement combined with his unwavering bent toward grace and compassion began to influence my thinking and actions.

After a while, I grew to sense a check in my spirit whenever criticism or negativity spilled out of my mouth. Sometimes the check was heeded. Other times, it was noted and promptly ignored.

Stop. Don’t say it.

Okay, now you’ve let that ugly criticism out of your mouth. You’re slandering someone God loves. Time to stop. Don’t continue.

STOP TALKING NOW.

Paul says we are to get rid of all bitterness. All.

ALL.

Bitterness is a weed with roots that go a lot deeper than the critical, judgy words about to leave my tongue. If I have to slap my hand over my mouth in order to not grieve God’s Holy Spirit, then I have a lot of work to do. Critical words are a product of stinky attitudes which are products of thoughts. Thoughts I am prone to feed and entertain if allowed to sprout and flourish unchecked.

If slanderous words grieve my Lord, then slanderous thoughts are every bit as heartbreaking.

Get rid of all bitterness. Get rid of malice.

Get rid of things that break God’s heart.

Fact: If you are in Christ, then God has forgiven you for all the things other people could be critical about that you’re still working on.

Uh …

Just as God has forgiven you for not having it all together, forgive others the same way.

Be Compassionate. Don’t pick at others’ flaws, faults, weaknesses.

Have Mercy. Show grace.

Remember that we are all a work in progress and all need God’s cleansing, renewing, and empowering. Remember that we all struggle with unseen things, with pains and fears, with quirks and tendencies and bad habits we need God’s help to overcome.

According to Ephesians 4, our words have the power to build others up according to their needs—even when we don’t understand what those needs are. And our words have the power to tear people down. Our words have the power break God’s heart. This is some serious power.

But my negative words are not the real issue—they’re simply evidence of a deeper problem: a bitter attitude in my heart. And what goes on in my heart matters to God.

I pray that the Spirit of God would not only stop me before I speak an unwholesome word about someone, but to stop me even as the negative thought begins to germinate in my mind. I pray he gives me a repulsion for such ugliness. I pray he enables me to immediately recognize seedlings of negativity, pull them by the roots, and hand them over to him. I pray he makes me ultra-sensitive to resentful thoughts and critical attitudes that so deeply pain him. I pray he makes my heart grieve over the things his heart grieves over. I pray Ezekiel 36:26, that he transplant my bitter, stony heart with a heart like his—a heart overflowing with compassion and grace. Soft, not stony. Full of light, not darkness. Full of love, not malice.

Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. -Hosea 10:12 (NKJV)

Oh, to have a heart like God. Make it so, Lord. Please make it so.

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