Let me explain why I can make this assertion, even though I don't know you. Jesus, while relating a parable said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).
Jesus makes the bold claim that what we do or do not do to others, we actually do or do not do to Christ Himself. Putting our interactions into this light, how often have we actually been criticizing Jesus? Yelling at Jesus? Judging Jesus?
Jesus further solidified the connection between our actions towards others and Him, elsewhere. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a story about a servant who had a debt to pay, but was unable to. In an act of mercy, his master didn't pronounce judgment against the servant, instead he set him free, forgiving him of his burden. But the same servant went out and found someone who owed him money. Rather than showing mercy, he demanded payment. The master found this out, wasn't pleased and so reversed the mercy given to the first servant.
The Bible provides a context for this response in Mathew 7:2, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus said, “if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15).
Why is this? When we condemn others for their sins, we're actually condemning Jesus, because He is the one who took their sin, and each of ours, to the cross as his own and paid for it, for all time and eternity. While this concept sounds bizarre at first, approach it simply: when you pay for something, you own it.
The Bible takes it a step further, saying, Jesus not only took ownership, He actually became as sin for us. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is why the concept of grace, isn't merely a sweet thought to alleviate the guilt of 'wrong-doers'.
Grace is vital to the good news. Presenting the Gospel, which means the 'good news', without grace is dangerous. I'm not just talking about presenting it without the concept of grace, but presenting it without an attitude of grace. If we don't practice what we preach, our words are meaningless.
A famous quote, often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, says, “Share the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” Our actions and ways of speaking communicate as much, or more, than our words do.
The Apostle Paul noted to Titus, the best way to get the gospel across, was living properly, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8).
While our words are important, our conduct often impacts more deeply. Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” It's counter-intuitive to expect someone to respond positively to treating them poorly.
According to an article by The Nonverbal Group, “Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements, [such as] facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.” If this is true, the tone of our words convey more than five times what our words actually do, and our gestures and body language convey more than half of our overall message.
This concerns me when I think about how I treat people. Am I speaking the truth, but not in a loving tone or gesture? This could give the impression, I'm actually judging rather than loving, or even lying to the person. Those aren't messages I want to convey.
When we interact with others and treat them certain ways, we're actually treating Jesus that way. I believe this should be a sobering thought we shouldn't move past easily.
But, bringing it back around to grace, we need grace for ourselves too. We're going to blow this, as we attempt to practice more true tone or gestures. We also need to treat ourselves like we would Jesus. We're also one of the “least of these” He talks about, in the scriptural quote earlier. Which means when we accuse and abuse ourselves, we're actually accusing and abusing Jesus as well.
From this point forward, let's view each other as Jesus, in terms of how we treat each other. Let's also treat ourselves with grace for the times we mess this up.
I'm praying for grace and peace for you. God bless!