Challenge Central: a CBC devotional
By: Rebecca Feere
I was encouraged (perhaps bribed) to memorize Scripture as a child. The Sunday School teacher rewarded those who could recite the memory verse every Sunday. What I wouldn’t do to place my sticker on the chart each week. I didn’t want to have any spaces left blank! Can you say, overachiever? Of course, I preferred to think of myself as consistent and meticulous. Can you sense the pride in my little heart? The Christian school I attended also had high expectations regarding Scripture memory. It is hard to say how many verses I could recite from memory by age eighteen, but let’s say it was a considerable amount! This is something I am very thankful for today. As a child, I memorized verses primarily for the prize, the grade, and the recognition. The outward achievement was good, but often the motive of my heart was not. On the outside, I was the textbook “good Christian girl.” Sadly, my heart was not impacted nor changed by the truth I was committing to memory.
Fast forward to the summer of 2022, when I was again encouraged to memorize a few passages of Scripture. It must be noted, this time around, there were no prizes or stickers involved! Imagine my delight when one of the verses was Ephesians 4:32! Not a problem! I have known that one since the second grade! Homework completed in a matter of seconds! I mean, doesn’t EVERYONE know that verse? There was that ugly pride again!
Thankfully, this time, God’s Spirit gripped my heart as I read these familiar words: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” It was as if I was reading this for the very first time. I saw this passage with fresh eyes and a tender heart. God’s Spirit was and continues to use this verse to change me from the inside out.
Here are a few things I observed from this text that have challenged me to live differently.
1) There are no exceptions to whom we are to be kind. It is easy to be kind to those who are kind to us (even the Pharisees did this! Matt. 5:46). This verse simply instructs us to be kind to one another – that’s everyone we meet and interact with. Yes, that includes the grouchy lady at the bank, the critical boss, the manipulating parent, and you fill in the blank. God tells us to be kind to everyone.
2) There are no limits as to when we are to be kind. Nothing is said here about being kind at Christmas or your birthday or when Uncle Sid starts telling jokes and gets everyone laughing. No, we are told to be kind – no exceptions or exclusions.
3) Tenderhearted is a word we don’t often use in everyday speech; it can also be translated – compassionate. This is looking beyond a person’s behaviour (the complaining, the criticizing, etc.) that may be less than ideal and realizing there are things we probably don’t know about, under the surface, that are prompting this behaviour. Jesus modelled being compassionate. He looked at the crowds and had compassion (Matt. 9:36). His compassion wasn’t based on their perfect behaviour or performance; He realized they were helpless without Him. Compassion expresses itself in action that will help and encourage the other person. It might be as simple as choosing not to snap back at someone who has just emotionally exploded on you! That is challenging but not impossible for those of us who know Christ.
4) The last instruction is to forgive. Okay, now this went from difficult to OVERWHELMINGLY HARD! Forgive that person? Again? This is a topic worthy of a sermon, but I will keep this brief for now. Forgiveness is not easy but is made possible through the power of the Spirit for those who know Jesus. Because of Jesus, we have been forgiven and made right with God. We don’t deserve this forgiveness. We didn’t and cannot earn this forgiveness. Yes, we have been graciously forgiven and are called and equipped (by God’s Spirit of power 1 Tim. 1:7) to forgive others graciously.
There is a lot to unpack in this one small verse. I feel I have only scratched the surface! My challenge is for you to meditate on this verse. Keep this verse in front of your eyes, and before you know it, it will be written on your heart, and by God’s grace, it will make a difference in how you respond to others. Write it out on an index card to carry with you; write it on sticky notes and place them in various places throughout your house and vehicle; make it the lock screen on your phone and computer. Indeed, it does not matter if you ever have it memorized word-for-word. My prayer is that the truth of this verse will change your heart. The instructions of Ephesians 4:32 are not easy from a human perspective. But God has given us everything we need to do His will. Let’s trust Him to strengthen us to be kind and compassionate and to forgive all graciously.
I am thankful for the Sunday School teachers who insisted I memorize Scripture as a young girl. I am even more grateful that God uses His Word to soften and change our hearts. Those verses stored in our memory so long ago can take on fresh new meanings and applications. God’s Word will accomplish what God pleases (Isa. 55:11). Let us never discount the power of the Word (Heb. 4:12)!