Contributed by Dave Mcfadden on Nov 16, 2004 (message contributor)
Summary: How to be gracious toward others.
Today, we will conclude our series on "Finding Freedom In Forgiving Others." In doing so, I want us to think together about how our Savior tells us that we, as His followers, are called to live differently than the world. (READ TEXT)
In our passage for today, Jesus encourages His followers to rise above the judgmental life lived by others to live a life characterized by graciousness. Let’s notice what He had to say about gracious living.
1. The nature of gracious living - v. 37
Gracious living is characterized by non-judgementalism, by acceptance of others, by forgiveness, and by giving of oneself to others. Interestingly enough, the description given here by Jesus of gracious living sounds similar to what Paul said about love:
"Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!" - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (CEV)
The Christian who lives graciously does not go about looking for faults in others or trying to analyze their motives. Instead, they try to think the best of others, say the best about others, and do their best for others. The best thing we can do is to accept people as they are and not try to analyze them and judge them. Often, things are not as they seem to us.
An engineer, a psychologist, and a theologian were hunting in the wilds of northern Canada. They came across an isolated cabin, far removed from any town. Because friendly hospitality is a virtue practiced by those in the wilderness, the hunters knocked on the door to ask permission to rest.
No one answered their knocks, but, discovering the cabin was unlocked, they entered. It was a simple place-two rooms with a minimum of furniture and household equipment. Nothing was surprising about the cabin except the stove. It was large, pot-bellied, and made of cast iron. What was unusual was its location: it was suspended in mid-air by wires attached to the ceiling beams.
"Fascinating," said the psychologist. "It is obvious that this lonely trapper, isolated from humanity, has elevated his stove so he can curl up under it and vicariously experience a return to the womb."
"Nonsense!" replied the engineer. "The man is practicing the laws of thermodynamics. By elevating his stove, he has discovered a way to distribute heat more evenly throughout the cabin."
"With all due respect," interrupted the theologian, "I’m sure that hanging his stove from the ceiling has religious meaning. Fire lifted up has been a religious symbol for centuries."
The three debated the point for several minutes without resolving the issue. When the trapper finally returned, they immediately asked him why he had hung his heavy potbellied stove by wires from the ceiling.
His answer was succinct: "Had plenty of wire, not much stove pipe!"
A Christian who lives graciously, understands that things are not always as they seem, so he seeks to refrain from making rash judgments.
2. The benefits of gracious living - v. 38
Jesus says that if we are not judgmental , then others will not judge us. If we are accepting, then others will accept us. If we are forgiving towards others, then they will forgive us. If we give of ourselves to others, then they will give back in kind. That which we receive from others will be in proportion to what we give them, and if we live graciously, the blessings we receive will add up to more than we can hold! Indeed, it is a divine law that our blessing will be consistent with our graciousness!
Many years ago, Chinese farmers theorized that they could eat their big potatoes and use the small ones for seed. Consequently, they ate the big potatoes and planted the small potatoes. As a result of this practice over the years, nature eventually reduced the size of all the potatoes they harvested to marbles. A new understanding of the law of life came to them. They learned through this bitter experience that they could not have the best things of life for themselves and use their leftovers for seed. The law of life decreed that the harvest would reflect the planting!
"[Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings." - 2 Corinthians 9:6 (Amplified)
3. The requirement for gracious living - vs. 41-42
What is required if I am going to live the gracious life Christ calls me to?
An awareness of my own faults!
It is only when I have first dealt with my own faults that I am in a position to help someone else deal with theirs. We are to help one another deal with faults, but we are to do so graciously, not judgmentally. We need to be careful to be aware of our own faults and shortcomings as we seek to help others out with theirs.