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Invitation to a Modest Moral Inventory, Part 2

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31

Last Thursday, we began what I've called a "modest moral inventory" based on Ephesians 4:31-32. The first verse of this passage mentions several attitudes or behaviors that we need to get rid of as new people in Christ. I suggested that you might use this short list of negatives to examine your own life and see where you might want to change your way of living.

Today, we examine an even shorter list of positives in Ephesians 4:32: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." I'd like to focus on the first two in this reflection, saving forgiveness for later.

Ephesians 4:32 says "Be kind." Are you? Kindness involves doing good things for others, especially in situations when others are unworthy or unable to reciprocate. If you do good because you owe someone or because you might get something in return, that's not really kindness. God's kindness, for example, can be seen in the fact that he is good "to the ungrateful and wicked" (Luke 6:35). Earlier in Ephesians, we saw that God's kindness is an expression of his incomparably rich grace (2:7). You might say that kindness is a tangible expression of grace.

So then, are you kind? Do you do good things for the people in your life, not only because it's expected of you, but "just because"? Do you think of ways you can serve and encourage your spouse? Family members? Co-workers? Friends? Neighbors? When somebody you supervise at work messes up, do you treat that person kindly, dealing with the problem in a way that doesn't strip away that person's dignity? Do you treat kindly those whom our culture often undervalues?

In addition to "Be kind," Ephesians 4:32 adds, "and compassionate to one another." The Greek word translated here as "compassionate" literally means "good bowels" (eusplanchnos). The Greek language located emotions, not in our hearts, but in our vital organs beneath our hearts (stomach, kidneys, intestines, etc.). Another translation of of eusplanchnos would be "tenderhearted" (as in the ESV and NRSV). Tenderhearted people allow the feelings of others to touch their own souls. When people around them grieve, compassionate people feel sad as well. When they are needy, tenderhearted people sense that need. It's easy to see the connection between kindness and compassion. When you feel what others around you feel, you're better able to do for them what they need.

Are you compassionate and tenderhearted? Or are you too absorbed in your own life to feel what others are feeling? Or are you too focused on the task at hand to pay attention to the people doing the task? In many cases, our lack of compassion for others reflects, not so much our hard-heartedness as our busyness. If we stop to consider the people around us, and especially if we take time to pray for them, we will often sense the Lord softening our hearts toward those people.

If you're consistently hard-hearted, this may be something you need to bring to the Lord in confession. It may also reflect woundedness in your life. Hard-heartedness protects you from feeling even more hurt, or so you expect. No matter what keeps you from being compassionate, the Lord will tenderize your heart if you offer it to him, healing that which is wounded, forgiving that which is sinful, and softening that which is hard.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Use the questions I've suggested above to help you take an inventory of your kindness (or lack thereof) and compassion (or lack thereof). As the Spirit of God to show you what is true about yourself. Confess your sin if that is needed. Ask for healing if that is needed. Invite the Lord to help you be a kind and compassionate person, and then follow the Spirit's lead, beginning today.

PRAYER: Thank you, gracious God, for your kindness. Thank you for your compassion. Thank you for all the ways you have been kind and compassionate to me.

Help me, Lord, to be like you in these ways. Show me where I am falling short. Inspire me with new ways to be kind to those around me. Help me to open my heart to the people in my life, to my family members and coworkers, to my neighbors and church members, to the server in the restaurant and to the cashier in the market.

May my life be a demonstration of your grace alive in me. Amen.

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Stewardship of Creation

The mission of Leave No Trace is to teach “people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.” It’s an ethics program based on protection and preservation. Biblical stewardship of the environment respects this high standard, then takes it a step further—adding propagation to the mix. We’re hardwired to create, so when God told us to work the earth and take care of it, he gave us permission to make beauty out of the basic; to turn raw ingredients into art, science, entertainment, and nourishment. How we do this matters greatly, and it starts with responsibility.

Our Stewardship of Creation series at The High Calling explores how daily decisions can leave the world better than we found it. We hope you’ll join us for the conversation.

Image above courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.

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