“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
Well, that sounds nice enough. Who could argue with that? It makes you feel all cozy inside, doesn’t it? And what parent isn’t comforted in knowing that their student is attending such a loving environment? Put it over your dining room table, Mom.
Well, have you tried it yourself? Are you kind to one another? Or more specifically, are you kind to those who annoy you? Are you always tenderhearted, that is, feel for, that sister who took your parking spot? Are you forgiving that coworker who you know wants your job and talks poorly about you behind your back?
Being kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving gets messy. It isn’t pretty. It’s difficult to actually not hold someone’s guilt over them when you are still smarting from the pain. As Jesus says, anyone can love their friends, the mafia does that, but try loving your enemies!
A kindergarten teacher told me last week that, “hurt people hurt people.” Sure enough, you probably can relate. It’s not easy to deal with being messed with by this messed-up world. Consciously or unconsciously it carries over into our interactions with others. When we hurt someone it probably not only hurts them but also causes a ripple effect in their circle. Perhaps we could describe humanity in a similar way from Adam and Eve to today: hurt people hurting people.
The concentric circles would have gone on forever except God intervened like another rock thrown in the pond, or in our gene pool. God’s Son became man and began another ripple effect swallowing up opposing waves with forgiveness, kindness, and tenderheartedness. Yet not superficially or qualitatively, but deeply and for all, even His enemies. Jesus’ kindness and tenderheartedness culminates on the cross. He kindly took our place in punishment. God is so tenderhearted, He loves us even though we are often quite unloveable. Jesus’ death and resurrection, His forgiveness of sinners, ripples through His church (believers) into the lives of hurt people. Though we may fail to be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. Jesus does not. He even forgives you for not being those things sometimes!
That’s why St. Paul says, “…as Christ forgives you.” His forgiveness of you gently pushes you to do the same for others. If you’re having trouble being kind to non-kind people, remember God’s kindness to you! Eat and drink it, bathe in it, listen to it.
Hurt people hurt people. Yet also forgiven people forgive people. Loved people love people. Uplifted people lift up people.