When I was a teenager, I played golf pretty regularly with a couple of friends. Two great parts of our game was the “mulligan” and the “gimme.” Most will know what they are. A “mulligan” is getting a free hit on the tee, and a “gimme” is getting a free putt into the hole from a reasonable distance. My friends didn’t have to give either to me, but they would because they wanted to make sure that I would give them a “mulligan” or “gimme” when they needed it. Although it was purely selfish on our part (to receive the same benefit when needed), the “mulligan” and the “gimme” were acts of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NKJV)
God offers kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to sinners. God expresses His heart for those near and far from Him with these transforming characteristics. If you are a follower of Jesus, you can describe each experience of God’s heartfelt work in your life. And He expects those of us who have experienced God’s kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to show those same characteristics in our relationships. God expects us to do more than what is normal or natural. He has equipped us with His presence to shape our life and relate to others in a powerful way that is more than the norm.
As a new creation in Jesus Christ, we now have a new way of life, supernaturally powered by the Spirit of God. God has poured out His love into our hearts so that we live in a state of contentment as His children. As God’s people, we have been sealed by the Spirit so that we become more and more like Jesus. The Spirit of God leads us so that we reflect God’s character in our relationships.
1. Immerse others in kindness.
One characteristic of God that the Spirit ignites in the soul of His people is kindness (krēstos). Kindness is the grace God gives us to be helpful, to bless, and to demonstrate love to another. Someone once wrote:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
People around us are struggling and when we respond to them with active kindness, it can make an eternal difference in their lives. Kindness doesn’t come naturally to us. It is something that the Spirit produces in us toward others.
2. Nourish others with compassion.
The Spirit ignites compassion in our hearts for others (eusplagchnos). As followers of Jesus, we deal with one another from a heart of love that feels deeply and personally what the other is going through. We need the Spirit to awaken sympathy in our hearts toward others. Compassion is more than feeling sympathy for someone. It is feeling sympathy that moves us toward another, so that we join them on their journey.
3. Fuel your relationships with forgiveness.
When faced with hurtful words and hateful actions, we must respond to others the way God has responded to us. We must forgive (charizomai). The verb here is formed from the noun for “grace.” It is the act of extending grace with another person. Rather than holding onto resentment, we must extend grace. Rather than boiling in a settled wrath, we should extend grace. Rather than clanging complaints and abusive speech, we should have our words covered in grace. The model of our forgiveness is God’s forgiveness of us as sinners. This is the forgiveness He brought to us through Jesus Christ.
Forgiving those who wound us is challenging to say the least. Our natural response is to focus on the hurt that another has caused us. The supernatural response is to focus on God’s grace to us. Forgiveness toward others then flows from the life-shaping knowledge of how God has first forgiven us. To forgive is not the same as fixing the situation completely. There’s a difference between the two. When we pave our relationship with forgiveness, the other person may not walk down the road to reconciliation. But it remains our job to forgive.
Our relationships need to be more than natural. Rather than the normal way of doing relationships where they “punch” at us and we “counter-punch” in the same way, we need to relate to people supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit. We need to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving.
Stop. Take a breath. And pray:
“God, as I submit to Your Spirit, will You empower me to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to others?”