Friday, May 17, 2013

Ingredient #5 - Graciousness (Love - Part 7)

"...does not act unbecomingly..."
I Corinthians 13:5

Are you a gracious person?

Not sure how to answer that, are you? Well, test yourself:
  • How do you respond when someone cuts you off while driving?
  • What do you tip a bad waitress?
  • How well do you forgive when someone hurts you?  purposefully?  repeatedly?
  • What is your preferred method of confrontation,  bludgeoning or with kindness?
  • When you're angry, what does it look like?  
  • When you're taken advantage of, when you're overlooked, when your rights are violated, when you're reviled, when you're mocked and despised, how do you respond?
I think you get the picture.  As citizens of a free country, we have inalienable rights - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And if those rights are stepped on or violated, we have the right to bear arms - in other words, we have the right to fight for what is ours.

Our fifth ingredient is graciousness which does not act unbecomingly or ugly - you know, that ugliness that appears only we've been pushed to our limit.  But God says that true love doesn't ever act ugly, instead, it is gracious - or better put: full of grace. 

Let's look at Jesus first. John 1:17 says, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."  The law was truth alone - no grace.  Just a thorough pounding of God's standards and our inability to maintain them.  The law was painful to realize - it was the prosecuting attorney, judge ,jury and prison system all wrapped up in 613 commands.  

But Jesus was not simply the fulfillment of the law; He was also grace.  Jesus spoke truth with compassion.  He understood we could never live the law, so in gracious love, He lived out the law and then paid the punishment of the law on our behalf. This is how grace and truth were realized in Jesus Christ - His willingness to lay aside His rights and become the sacrifice for the lost proves to us that the law (or truth) required a high price and Jesus was willing to pay it.

Look at how gracious our Savior is:
  • "...while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously..." I Peter 2:23
  • "...who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross..." Phil. 2:6-8
  • "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sake became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." II Cor. 8:9
So love does not act ugly - Jesus, because of His great love for us, did not model selfishness or ugly outbursts of anger, or road rage, or sourness, or competitiveness.  He never yelled at a ref, cursed in his car, demanded His rights or even defended Himself during His trials.  He never shook a fist, flipped a finger, allowed His face to turn red or spewed out words that were R-rated.  He was the model of self-control but greater than that, He was gracious - marked by kindness and courtesy, tact and delicacy, charm and good taste (according to our above definition).

So do your words edify or tear down? (Eph. 4:30-32)  Are they kind and courteous?  Do you easily set aside your rights or are you that quintessential ugly American, who demands his rights wherever he goes?  Yes, we are to love even our enemies, but let's just use this litmus test in our families.  With your parents, to your children, with your spouse, to your siblings - are your words gracious?  Do they show compassion and kindness?

When stress and temptation push our buttons, God wants us to respond in love - a love that is not ugly but rather gracious, kind and attractive...ugly love is not really love at all.

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