Ephesians 4:31-32 (New Living Translation)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Last week’s devotional suggested giving up a destructive attitude or habit as a Lenten discipline. Today’s look at the same Ephesians passage takes our Lenten journey one step further—with each negative behavior we abandon, we make room for positive growth.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do relationship habits. When we give up a selfish or hurtful way of responding to others, we must replace that habit with a new behavior, hopefully something good and constructive.
Paul counsels us to replace our negative habits with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. These qualities are intimately bound together within God’s law of love. What’s more, they are attributes of God Himself that we receive as we surrender our bitterness, anger, and evil behaviors and ask God to fill in the gap. Surrendering the negative and growing into the positive makes us more like Christ, a process that Saint Athanasius described as “becoming by grace what God is by nature.”
FATHER, I want to be more like Christ, but it’s so difficult for me to feel kind or tenderhearted toward those who have hurt and offended me. I need your grace to comfort and secure me so that I can give up my defensive habits and attitudes. Teach me your kindness; strengthen my faith to see how completely you have loved and forgiven me so that I, in turn, can love and forgive others.
Colossians 3:12-14; 1 John 4:7-12
Who in your life least deserves your kindness and forgiveness? Why would God want you to become tenderhearted toward this person?