A fresh new year is a good time to reflect on the quality and effectiveness of our relationships. Consider these five practical tips for enhancing your daily encounters with people and living out Christ in your business, social, and personal life.
#1 – Clean out your grudge closet
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. (Ephesians 4:31, NLT)
We all have them—secret closets where we store up old grudges and offenses and injuries that we have never been able to forgive. Every now and then we might take these grudges out and fondle them and remember the pain and anger and grief we felt when they were new and fresh. Sometimes we can’t remember all the details of a grudge, yet still we are reluctant to let it go.
When we empty our closets of old and worn clothing, we make room for new clothing that fits us better and reflects who we are today. In the same way, we can discard old grudges and make room for new attitudes, such as forgiveness and generosity and compassion, that more closely identify who we are today in Christ and how we would like others to see us.
#2 – Polish your mirrors
How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? (Matthew 7:4, NLT)
When it comes to finding flaws in our neighbors, our eyesight is laser sharp. We can detect the smallest aberration, the merest deviation from what we consider right and reasonable behavior. The mirrors we use to reflect ourselves, however, tend to be fuzzy around the edges, equipped with wart filters, and good for reflecting only what is obvious and superficial.
Now is a good time to get out the polish and risk a closer look at who you really are and how others really see you. Wart filters can be effectively removed with a daily dose of Bible reading and quiet time spent alone with God. A clean mirror may surprise you by showing how you are more like your neighbor than you ever suspected.
#3 – Watch your words
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (Ephesians 4:29, NLT)
From the mouth of a person controlled by sin, words are a powerful and destructive weapon. Criticisms and malicious comments create wounds that can hurt for years. Such words spoken to a child or to someone who is particularly vulnerable can cause trauma with devastating, even life-threatening effects.
Human language is a holy gift. God spoke the world and all its beauty into existence and gave us Jesus, the Word, to show us eternal life. Kind and helpful words seem almost magical in their ability to lift the spirit and energize the one who hears. Be sure to think before you speak these powerful syllables aloud, mindful of how quickly they can slip into a person’s heart either to hurt or to heal.
#4 – Get real
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16, NLT)
Realizing how we have sinned is only the first step in a three-step recovery process. The second step is to confess our sin, and the third step is to repent, or to turn our face away from our sin and proceed in a different direction. Although confessing our sin to God is crucial, God also provides us with Christian community to encourage and prayerfully support us. Confessing our sin to another person makes our sin painfully visible but also lightens the burden of it because we no longer carry it alone as a secret.
Confession feels good because we can stop pretending to be someone we are not. The honest confession of one person encourages others to be honest as well; consequently, we can enjoy the benefit of being whole and real in a community of others who are also free to be whole and real.
#5 – Do good no matter what
But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. (Luke 6:27-28, NLT)
Our job is to shine the light of God among people who need to know him. Because we belong to God, we carry his Name into every situation and relationship in our lives. If we believe that God is sovereign, then we also believe that our lives are not incidental but designed with purpose. God has partnered us with people and placed us in situations where we can make a difference for his kingdom, perhaps in ways that no one else could.
Light shines brightest in the darkest places. When we are up against sin and evil, our best defense is the goodness and truth of God. Nothing confounds the world more than when malicious actions are met with grace and mercy. At such times souls are redeemed and hearts are turned toward God. Don’t miss the blessing of letting others see the love of Christ shining through the good that you do.