A confession! Often, when reading the New Testament letters, I skip across these long lists of character traits that (as a Christian) I should be avoiding and those contrasting qualities I should be developing. Behind that tendency there is perhaps a sense that words like ‘wrangling’ and ‘slander’ don’t pertain to me, or alternatively a feeling that trying to cut them out of my life is too difficult. Either way I’m wrong, for as I look at these verses again, I see areas in which either subtraction or addition could be helpful and God’s grace is there to help. “By God’s grace I will…”
As I write it’s still the first week of 2018 and the press and social media are full of New Year’s resolutions and how to put them into practice. Judging from the headlines most of us fall at the first hurdle and are doing well if we persist until early spring.
But living in Christ is very different from trying to fulfil a resolution perhaps dreamt up a few minutes before midnight on Hogmanay. With God, we form a deliberate intent to change (in whatever way) and God gives us grace to carry it through. So we can affirm, “By God’s grace I will…” Such intentions are best kept small to start with, but being accountable to a small group or a spiritual director can be valuable.
Sometimes the way our behaviours have played out with other people has led to bitterness that has never been healed, or entrenched personal attitudes that need the forgiveness of God, self and/or others and, ultimately, change. Letting go, losing the grudges so very easily developed over time can pave new conduits to fresh creativity and action in our churches and communities.
In this matter of what I say
And how I say it
I ask your forgiveness -
For the times I’ve overstated the facts,
When I’ve argued for no greater purpose than just being right,
For those occasions when I’ve failed to speak out at injustice,
Or when folk have been hurt by my words.
I pray rather that my speech would give grace to those who hear.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.