|(I know you all are probably really tired of seeing lilac photos, but I have an infatuation with them right now! :-)|
Graciousness is an invaluable quality! But it can be so hard to exercise this noble character trait sometimes. I find that I struggle with this most often when dealing with false teachers. My first instinct, though passionate as it may be, is always to scream the truth and seek that it be obtained. While being passionate and zealous for the truth is a wonderful thing, we should be equally passionate about developing a gracious and kind spirit. Not just towards the people who we agree with on every subject, but likewise, the ones who stir up heated theological discussions with us. People who appear to antagonize us and drive us over the edge of "crazy cliff", may have been brought into our lives solely for the purpose of teaching us to be gracious.
Now I am not saying to condone sin and just sweep it under the carpet...by God's grace, I don't want to ever do that-! But we should proceed with kindness and a humble heart, seeking to honor God and point others to Christ with our words. Not just Christ's wrath, (which I seem to do well) but His all sufficient grace.
However, when dealing with people who are genuinely workers of iniquity, we should proceed with firmness and caution. Christ rebuked the Pharisee's and drove the merchant's out of the temple. ("And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." John 2:14-17) We see commands from Paul for one of the Churches to purge the evil person from among them. ("...Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person". 1 Corinthians 5:13) So I think that it is important to maintain a healthy clarity as to who we should avoid and rebuke and who we should approach more gently, or answer with grace, when confronted by them.
Having a tender heart towards unbelievers can be a truly good thing, but we cannot let it interfere with our distaste for evil. When we encounter people who are willfully seeking to destroy Christ's Church, we should instantly feel the need to protect the body of believers and avoid that person at all costs. If God desires to bring them to repentance, they will eventually respect and understand your protectiveness for other Christians.
Learning to have a kind heart is inestimable! It is essential for properly conveying the character of God. Learning to view things from a spiritual perspective will help us immensely in our endeavors to achieve a gracious spirit. If we can look at a person and remind ourselves that without the saving hand of God, we could be exactly like them, it will help us attain the graciousness we so desire. Understanding that we did nothing to deserve God's gift of salvation, will help us appreciate it and instill a precious attitude towards the state of our eternal souls.
As we embark on our venture to pursue graciousness, we should also remember to pray fervently for our enemies and our brother's and sister's in Christ. We need to pray that God will provide us the grace to be the vessels for His glory that He intends for us to be.