By Jesse Roy Jones
Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923
When the Christian yields his life to God he becomes a channel through which the love of Christ may freely course. If the channel remains unchoked, as God intends it should, many other smaller channels will branch off from the main, and Christian love will find expression in the life in a number of ways. "Tradition tells that when the apostle John, too old and feeble to utter more than a sentence, was carried into the Christian assemblies, he would raise his withered hands and say, 'Little children, love one another'." Surely this exhortation needs to be emphasized today in the lives of Christians everywhere. Well might we all take stock of our lives and ask ourselves the question, — Have we grown in Christian love during the past year: Do our lives show forth to one another those qualities spoken of by Paul which evidence our love?
The outstanding manifestations of Christian love are summed up by Paul under three headings in Eph. 4:32, where he says — and we must remember, they are the inspired words of the Holy Spirit — "Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Kindliness is a word which expresses much. Its very sound is suggestive of that something which is greatly needed in the lives of Christians today. Kindliness carries with it the atmosphere of thoughtfulness and considerateness. Paul in Phil. 4:5 says, "Let your considerateness be known unto all men" (Rotherham translation). When this exhortation of Paul's is applied to our Christian living there will not be hasty, thoughtless words spoken to one another that will wound feelings, give cause for stumbling, and wreck our testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is certain that life affords very little opportunity for great acts of service to others, but there is scarcely a day, nay, scarcely an hour of the day that does not give us opportunity to show some little act of kindness, either in word or deed. Let the "kindness of God" grip the life — that kindness that was manifested for us, unworthy sinners, on the Cross of Calvary — and we will be led to do something similar to that which David did when he caught a glimpse of what God had done for him. Saul had been David's chief enemy. He cursed him and sought his life time and again. Saul had treated David like a snake. And yet when David realized the kindness of God toward him, and how God had forgiven him when he had sinned so grievously, he said, "Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake" (II Sam. 9:1)? Furthermore, when they presented unto him Mephibosheth, the only relative of Saul's that was left, and he a poor, lame, impotent man, who no sooner sees the King but falls upon his face and looks upon himself as a dead dog, far below the King's favor, David said, "Fear not: for I will surely show thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually" (II Sam. 9:7).
The following story illustrates one of the many ways in which thoughtfulness may find expression in the life. Lord Denbigh was walking through the House of Commons one day when he saw a party of wounded Australian privates. Two appeared to be dwarfs, but on drawing closer he noticed that their legs had been shattered below the knee. "Have you not been fitted with artificial legs yet?' he asked one of them. "Yes, I have," he replied, "and I am going along with them all right, but my pal has not, and as he is a bit shy about going out alone with his stumps, I left my legs behind." May God grant us such thoughtfulness in the little things of life.
Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted." Christians are too harsh with one another. There is a subtle danger of good orthodox believers becoming so orthodox that they lose sight of that fine quality of Christian sympathy. Great Bible teachers, who do not keep occupied with Christ, can become terribly unsympathethic. An unsympathetic nature in a Christian is bound to produce coldness and indifference in the life and will in turn have its chilling effect on the lives of others.
Tenderheartedness stands closely associated with kindliness, with the additional meaning of being ever more sensitive to the needs of others. It comes from a Greek word which refers to the inward affections. Kindliness carries with it the thought of mercy, while tenderheartedness conveys the thought of tender mercy. It is an expression of love, which when operative will manifest itself under such a condition as mentioned in I Cor. 13:6 (Moffatt Translation), — "Love is never glad when others go wrong." What a searching inquiry this passage makes upon our souls! How deplorable it is when a Christian worker manifests an inward gloating over a fellow believer's mistake which brings his testimony for Christ into disrepute before the public. Surely nothing short of the most subtle and the basest kind of jealousy could prompt such an attitude as this. And yet, every one of us is guilty of this sin; perhaps not in deed, but I fear too often in thought. God grant to us all a more sympathetic attitude, more of the tenderhearted spirit of Him who, when asked to pass judgment upon the woman taken in adultery, replied, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7).
A FORGIVING SPIRIT
Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." How far short we fall when it comes to the matter of forgiving one another. The Bible meaning of the word "forgive" is "to put away." When we human beings forgive, we limit our forgiveness by certain reservations. How often have we heard the expression, "I can forgive, but I cannot forget." When God forgives He says, "I will remember their sins no more." God is the only One Who really forgives, because He also forgets.
The need of a forgiving spirit toward one another is very great. Unkind words, thoughtless deeds, and a critical attitude meet us on every hand. Are we going to be big enough Christians to forgive the thoughtless brother who says unkind words about us? Are we overloaded with great testings? Let us not forget that He was tested in all points like as we are, yet without sin. Are our adversaries many and formidable? Think of His. Our adversaries have some cause for hating us, but they hated the Divine Son of God without a cause. His life and character were spotless. He did always those things which pleased the Father, and yet they crucified Him. But, in spite of being put to such shame and ignominy by His enemies. He cried, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Oh, how we need more of the forgiving spirit of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Let us "consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself," and thus find grace and strength to forgive one another as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us.
Bishop Selwyn, of New Zealand, tells us of a Maori who was seen to take a front seat at the Lord's table. Suddenly he rose, retired to the back of the church, and then came forward and resumed his seat. Asked afterward why he had done so, he replied, "When I entered, 1 had no idea who would be seated beside me. I saw at once that it was the man who had murdered my father; and I had sworn to drink his blood. But as I withdrew down the church, a voice seemed to say to me, 'By this shall, all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another;' and as I sat down near the door, a Man upon a cross rose before my eyes, and I heard Him say, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' Then I returned, and we took the Lord's supper together."
The appeal of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthian believers was for them to show to the ministers of the Gospel and before the churches proof of their love (see II Cor. 8:23-24). The appeal of the Spirit of God to believers today is, also, "Show ye proof of your love." No better method for the accomplishment of this can be found than giving heed to the exhortation in Eph. 4:32:
This points us to Jesus, the Embodiment of all these graces, and in Him we may find grace and strength to live out the exhortation.