Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
In our wonderful English language we have some interesting idiomatic expressions (figures of speech) that would puzzle folks from another country. For instance, I can recall when I was growing up and hearing adults comment on how I and my siblings were getting bigger. They would often say that we were “growing like a weed”. Of course this meant that we were growing fast and seemingly out of control. Another one of my favorites is often used when someone says something really unusual or out of the ordinary. We may say to someone, “You don’t have any sense.”
This does not mean that they truly have no good sense. It simply means that they are being silly or acting funny. Of course amidst these harmless expressions are some that do not make as happy. Nearly all of us have had some one “give us the cold shoulder”. This does not mean that the person’s shoulder is literally cold. It means that for one reason or another that person is choosing to ignore you or that they are snubbing you in some way.
As Christians, we must be careful about how we speak and act. In fact, we must be careful to not needlessly offend people or to cause them fall into sin. I have had people tell me that they do not like going to church because there are too many hypocrites. I always follow up by asking them, “Where else are Christians supposed to learn to do better if not at church?” We do not come to church because we are perfect but because we are sinful and want to learn to be more like Jesus.
Having said that I will say this; as Christians we should not use the fact that we are sinful as an excuse to be and do as we please. God has not called us to be failures. He has not called us to come to Him and then place our spiritual growth on cruise control. Yes, it does not matter how messed up we are when we come to Jesus. He will take us just as we are, but God would a failure if He accepted us as we are then left us there. God accepts us and then expects us to grow and become more and more like Jesus. It is through that growth process that God molds and shapes our character in such a way as to create in us Christ-like character. So if God longs to make us more and more like Jesus, why is it that too many Christians do not know how to treat one another? I think one aspect of it is that we want to maintain control of our lives.
Yes, we all want a Savior to save us from the penalty of our sins, but how many of us truly want a Lord? The thing we must understand is that we cannot have one without the other. You cannot just accept Jesus as Savior. You must also allow Him to be the Lord of your life. If we refuse to allow Christ to have full control then we are essentially saying to Him that we can do a better job running our lives that He can.
This brings us back to how we act and speak. Since I have been in the church (March 1992) I have met some really wonderful people who model the character of Christ. Sadly, I have also met some who seem to have the name of God but opted to not take on His character. You’ve all met people like this I am sure. They are the ones who always seem to have nothing nice to say to anyone. They always look for the worst in every situation or they may criticize others instead of trying to be a part of the team. These Sadducees (Sad-you-sees) are missing out on the joy that Jesus longs to give us.
When Christ was here on earth He said that He came that we can have life and to have it more abundantly (John 10:10). An abundant life is not one that focuses on the negative. It is one that takes the bad in stride with the good. Just because we give our hearts to Christ does not mean that we will never experience heartache. The Christian walk is filled with peaks and valleys. But no matter what we may encounter along to way, as long as we hold fast to Jesus we will make it through and have victory in every trial.
It is my goal this evening to challenge each of you to consider how you treat others and to consider how you present yourselves to the world around you. Are you displaying the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, , gentleness, and self control-Galatians5:22) or are you walking about with a cloud of gloom around you? If you truly seek to honor Christ with your life then you must make sure that you always—I emphasize always—seek to lift up and encourage others. To walk around giving people the cold shoulder or being a thorn in their flesh is not living your life in such a way as to honor the Lord.
Teach us to model Christ in every aspect of our lives. Help us overcome the sinful tendencies that we have so long cultivated. Please forgive us our shortcomings and help us to met the "cold shoulders" we give to others that they might learn of Your awesome love. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.