Friday of 2 Lent

Graciousness

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” —Colossians 4:6  

“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”  —1 Peter 2:19-20  

At the beginning of this series of meditations it was noted that this past year has been difficult for everyone globally. There has been much turmoil, suffering, sorrow, and death. How has the Church handled these crises? In truth, not well at all. Though St. Paul declares that we are to obey the governing authorities (Romans 13:1), many local churches defied the government’s restrictions during the pandemic, and some individual Christians claimed unjust suffering at the hands of the government. Many Christians have struggled with depression, despondency, and doubt. Families have broken apart and marriages have severed. But St. Paul says in the passage above that the “gracious thing” for the Christian to do is to endure sorrow and suffering. “This is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” But how?

The word gracious comes from gratia, the Latin root for “favor”. Graciousness is rooted in God’s favor, His grace. The one who is gracious of heart is someone who exhibits God’s favor and is “full of grace”. When something is full it has no room for anything else. A person who is full of grace has no room for self, sin, or the devil.  There are three people in the New Testament who were declared to be “full of grace.” In John 1:14, it says of Jesus, the Word, that He “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Of His mother Mary, Luke recounts the angel’s greeting: “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). And in Acts 6:8, Luke describes the ministry of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, saying, “Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” Each of these three had to endure sorrow and suffering. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus endured the cross. Mary had to watch her Son die (John 19:25). And Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the Word (Acts 7:58). And each of them exhibited God’s grace in their suffering. But what about us? How do we tap into that grace and favor? In John’s Gospel, after declaring that Jesus was full of grace and truth, the evangelist says that “from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (1:16). And that this “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:17). When we are in Christ, we receive “grace upon grace.”

In building the walls of the Temple, we must, as has been stated, use the most excellent building materials. There must be no impurities in the clay, or the bricks will crumble and the walls will collapse. The process of becoming Christlike requires our humility. We must be willing to recognize that there are things in our lives which are not of Christ, and these impurities must be removed, burned out by the fire of the Holy Spirit. It is not something we can accomplish by our own efforts. As St. James declares in his epistle, “He gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (4:6). This is not a one time experience. We must continue to grow into that Christlikeness. St. Peter exhorts the saints to, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).  We must grow in grace.

When we have grown in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, then the fullness of that grace will be self-evident in our lives and our dealings with others in the Body and with those outside. Paul exhorted the church at Colossae (4:6), “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” And when we have grown “full of grace” then we can, as Paul told young Titus (2:7-8), “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works…and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

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