Your Relationship with God Directly Impacts Your Relationships with Others!
O LORD God, I pray for Your presence and blessing as I worship with my fellow believers this day. Send Your Spirit to lead me to confess my sins sincerely, to rejoice in Your forgiveness entirely, and then to forgive my fellow believers completely when they sin against me. May Your gospel message of grace and mercy fill my heart and dominate my life. In Jesus’ saving name I pray. Amen.
The Christian life involves our relationship with God and our fellow believers. We are to listen to God and share His truths with our fellow believers. We are to rejoice, pray, give thanks, while upholding and holding to everything that is good, knowing always that our God is faithful!
Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant reveals God’s grace and mercy—forgiving us all of our sins, while it encourages us to forgive others even as we have been forgiven.
Text: Ephesians 4:29-32
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
In Christ Jesus—our Brother, our Savior, our Lord, and our God, dear fellow redeemed:
I believe that it is commonly understood and accepted that the joy and satisfaction you experience in life is tied directly to the quality of relationships you possess with other people. You can be extremely successful in your business or trade, yet if your marriage goes bad or you struggle in your relationship with your children, much of the joy and satisfaction of life simply slips away from you. You may own a beautiful house or live in a lovely apartment, but if you do not get along with your neighbors you will no doubt experience a good deal of anxiety and stress in the very place that should be your refuge—your home. Consequently, the joy and satisfaction you desire in life will be greatly lessened.
What might be less commonly understood and accepted by many is the fact that your relationship with God plays a significant role in your relationships with people. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the connection between our relationships with God and those of other people is often overlooked—even by those of us who place our faith in Jesus. The apostle John speaks of this seeming disconnect when he writes: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God loves his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:20-21).Let us consider, therefore, this biblical truth—YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD DIRECTLY IMPACTS YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS! May our joy and satisfaction in life be increased as we put that truth into practice in our daily lives!
First of all I would encourage you—never grieve the Holy Spirit who has sealed you for the day of redemption! Paul writes: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Paul begins his comments quite obviously with reference to our communication with others and, more specifically, our oral communication—the words we speak to others. He urges us not to lace our conversations with four-letter words—with corrupt and vulgar language. Such language is abusive, and even should you not intend to be abusive, such language is offensive. The apostle James rightly observes: “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so!” (Jam. 3:10) “But,” some might argue, “that’s just the way I am. People know that and aren’t bothered by that.” That may or may not be true in any given case, but that is beside the point, as we shall see momentarily. At this point let us simply recognize that God says no such words are to proceed out of our mouths! Rather, Paul says, we ought to make sure that everything we say helps to build others up and seeks to advance their understanding of God’s love and mercy as revealed by His grace. God’s grace—His undeserved love for us in connection with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ—therefore, is not only to dominate our minds, and so our entire approach to life, but also our mouths as we communicate with others!
What Paul goes on to say, however, is what may surprise many of us, for he connects what we say to the reaction not of those other people who may be listening to us at any given time, but rather to the Holy Spirit who listens to us at all times! What effect does our corrupt language, when or if we use it, have on the Holy Spirit? Paul says that it grieves the Holy Spirit—something we should never want to do!
It is interesting to note that the Bible only speaks of the Holy Spirit being grieved on two occasions—once here and once in the book of Isaiah. In both cases, however, the Holy Spirit is grieved by how people communicate. Here with vulgarity and in Isaiah through lying (cf. Is. 63:8-10). Why would the Holy Spirit be so concerned about how we communicate? I believe that it is because God has chosen to communicate with us through Jesus, whom He calls the “Word” (cf. Jn. 1:1-3, 14). Beyond that He has chosen to have His Spirit work through the spoken and written word to work faith in people’s hearts. And finally He has chosen us to be His ambassadors—His “ambassadors for Christ” as Paul explained to the Christians in Corinth (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20). One of our chief purposes in life, therefore, is to share God’s message of love and reconciliation with our fellow human beings. To fill our speech with corrupt words, therefore, is to violate the very purpose God has given us. It suggests that we think lightly both of God and of our fellow human beings who are precious, redeemed souls in the eyes of God.
Paul reminds us that we have been “sealed for the day of redemption” by that same Holy Spirit. This speaks to our relationship with God. We are but poor sinners by ourselves and on our own. Yet, God in Christ has loved us with a deep and abiding love. That love brought Jesus into this world to live and to die for us. Love took Jesus to the cross and into the grave, but then out of the tomb and up to His throne in heaven to watch over and bless us. God sent His Spirit to bring us from death to life by creating faith within our hearts. It is that Spirit who has now sealed us, which means that He has claimed us as God’s own and placed us under God’s divine protection until that day when we are transported to heaven to spend eternity in His presence.
That being the case, Paul says: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.” My dear friends—this life is filled with trials and challenges, stresses and strains. It is quite easy to become frustrated with others and that frustration can lead to some pretty ugly things—bitterness, anger, hateful and evil words, and a desire to hurt others rather than to help them. When we bear in mind what God has done and is doing for us each day, how can that not affect in a positive way our relationships with each other! When the grace of God dominates our thinking, then we can and will want to pray that God takes away all of those negative emotions, expressions, and actions. Instead of abusive words flowing from the mouths of husbands and wives, parents and children, managers and employees, neighbors and supposed friends, there will be words of peace and hope, of maturity and strength. We will build rather than tear down and uplift rather than depress. YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD DIRECTLY IMPACTS YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS! Never grieve the Holy Spirit who has sealed you for the day of redemption!
On the other hand, always forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven you! Paul concludes this section of his Epistle by saying: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” We are all familiar with what is commonly known as the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Paul’s words flesh that concept out and demonstrate to us how to carry out the Golden Rule in practical terms.
The model of our practical relationships with one another is that of God with us in connection with Jesus Christ. “God so loved the world,” Jesus tells us, “that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). True and godly love sees the needs of others and attempts to meet those needs in the very best fashion. God saw our need for forgiveness, for righteousness, and for an antidote to death. He sent His Son as the solution for all such needs. Jesus lived perfectly as our Substitute, even when the situations facing him were excruciatingly difficult and painful. Peter writes, for instance, concerning the abuse Jesus endured while hanging on the cross: “(Jesus) when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). Jesus prayed for those who nailed Him to the cross (cf. Lk. 23:34), rather than cursing them, as no doubt the thieves crucified with him were wont to do. Jesus died, by choice, laying down His life for us, so that He might overcome Satan and remove any reason for us to fear death any longer (cf. Heb. 2:14). Jesus took His life back again to demonstrate the authority He has both over death and to instill within us the gift of eternal life (cf. Jn. 10:18, 28).
In the face of such love and as the recipient of such grace, how can we not but be kind and tender-hearted to one another? “But you don’t know my husband (or wife),” you might be tempted to respond. “You haven’t experienced the humiliation and pain I have experienced at the hands of that ingrate,” you might want to cry out. That may well be the case, but that does not change our Lord’s command or His request. Paul says, “Forgive one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Note how once again our relationship with God is to determine our relationships with men. Did God forgive you and me because we were so nice? Did He forgive you and me because we were so deserving? No, He forgave us in spite of our wretchedness and our complete lack of deserving. He did so for Jesus’ sake. Jesus, the Son of God, shed His blood for us to cleanse us from our sins. God, in view of Jesus’ blood and righteousness, has justified us, declaring us not-guilty, and thereby saving our souls, just as Isaiah once prophesied: “He (God the Father) shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” (Is. 53:11).
When we look at our fellow human beings and want to scream out, “I hate you and will never forgive you,” may we look up! Yes, may we look up and behold the grace of God in Christ, and may we then drop to our knees with repentance acknowledging our own unworthiness and then forgive even as we have been forgiven. Our motivation to forgive does not lie in the person we are forgiving, but rather in the Lord God of heaven and earth and the grace He has bestowed upon us so lavishly!
My dear friends, as we pass through life God will bless us in many ways. In addition to His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation which are by far His most important, He also freely gives us the physical gifts of shelter, food, clothing, transportation, and oftentimes entertainment. But more important than any of these physical gifts are our personal relationships within our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our congregations. Always strive to remember: YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD DIRECTLY IMPACTS YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS! If we are guided by the will of God in this matter, our joy and satisfaction in life will be greatly increased. May it be so among us! Amen.