Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.
Two days ago as my husband and I ran some errands, I chose to sit outside in the car with the windows rolled down while he went inside to check out new arrivals to his favorite local gun store. It was getting warm but I was quite comfortable and was taking a moment of peace to ponder what subject I would write about for today. We’d parked close to the entrance with a space between us and the next vehicle.
My thoughts were interrupted by the conversation of two men as they exited the store. One went to the driver’s side of the extended cab pickup parked that short distance from my side of our car. The fellow opened the back door and placed his bag inside. His voice rose as he did so and I couldn’t help hearing some expletives fly. He slammed the door shut and got into the driver’s seat. Wow, I thought, he is really upset to use such language! After some talk with his friend, he rolled down his window and called out to me, “Madam, please forgive me. I didn’t realize you were there and I’m sure you heard my foul language. I am so very sorry.” A true Southern gentleman!
I replied that I appreciated that and that we all get upset sometimes and say something we shouldn’t. I added, “God bless you!” He looked so ashamed and just shook his head and slowly backed out. My husband was just arriving at our car and I shared the incident with him, commenting on the sad fact that we all seem to lose control at times, especially when we are really upset or hurt. Words we quickly regret fly out of our mouths. I think of the last time I hit my thumb with a hammer or almost tripped over an aggressive pet.
My mind wandered to the book of James and his advice to us on guarding our tongues and being slow to anger. How many times do we still succumb to this temptation to vent our anger? How else could I have responded to this man? As a Christian, I have to remember how many times the Lord has forgiven me for letting my tongue go unbridled. Not one of us is perfect, certainly not me. I thank God that I remembered how I felt after I said the wrong thing and wished I could have taken it back. Even if no one else heard me, I know God did and He matters more than anyone else to me. Yet I know that He loves me and forgives me for all things if I but sincerely ask for forgiveness. How could I not show this fellow the same compassion and love that God shows each one of us each and every day?
Looking back over this incident, I am grateful that I could respond as a Christian and share God’s love with this man. On the way home, I prayed for peace for him and healing. He was hurting and he needed forgiveness not condemnation. As I searched scripture this morning for just the right verses to accompany this post, I was led to Ephesians Chapter Four. Help me remember to show the same compassion Our Father shows to me and forgive as He forgives me.