Here are seven common grace killers:
Critical spirits and sharp comments. When we allow ourselves to have critical spirits toward others we set ourselves above them in our attitude and demeanor. When we make sharp comments we compound our error and in essence demean others. Even when it is necessary to have a difficult conversation one can speak graciously with truth and ever conscious of our own issues. All of us live under God's grace which He extends daily. To follow Him is to extend that same grace to others.
Playing the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others. Needing to fix other people's issues is far more about us than it is about them. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict each of us about areas in our lives that need renovation. Sure there are times when we need to talk to others about issues in their lives but we ought to do it with great care. I have found that praying for others is often a far better approach than trying to fix others. God is perfectly capable of getting anyone's attention but He does it with amazing mercy and love.
Expecting others to live by our own convictions. Believers have a wide variety of convictions and practices that fall into the grey zone between what God commands and what He leaves to our conscience. Each of us makes lifestyle choices in those areas where God has not spoken clearly. When we are critical of those who make different choices than we do we are imposing legalism on them and moving from grace to control. We are also again playing the role of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
This extends to our theology. There are many points of theology - beyond the pillars of what it means to be evangelical that Christians differ on. When I insist that others slice and dice their theology they way I do I am arrogantly suggesting that I have a corner on truth and they do not. What is it in me that does not allow others to come to their own conclusions on issues that are not clear in Scripture? One day we will all stand before God and realize how little we actually knew of Him. Yet we are unable to be flexible with the convictions and practices of others.
Gossip and talking to others about issues rather than to the one we have an issue with. This is a huge grace killer and ubiquitous among God's people. Gossip is no different than writing a critical email and copying it to the world. Its ripples continue on and is a way to lift ourselves up by demeaning others. At its heart it is pure judgement and is from the Evil One rather than the One who gives life (John 10:10). Untold harm is caused to reputations and relationships when we engage in this grace killing behavior.
Assuming ill motives on the part of others. This is a grace killer because we are usually wrong (the motives were not poor) but our assumption about motives (as if we can know the heart of another) causes us to think poorly of them. Grace says that I will not assume the motivation of others because I cannot know it unless they tell me. Giving others the benefit of the doubt is about grace. Only God knows the heart.
Holding on to bitterness and choosing not to forgive. Lack of forgiveness and bitterness is at the root of a great deal of relational dysfunction and critical spirits. It not only kills grace in the relationship but in our own spirits that are poisoned by our refusal to forgive and let go. We become a prisoner of our own bitterness and the poison of that bitterness spreads to others around us. It is our choice to forgive or not to forgive but it is God's command that we do.
Lack of empathy and understanding. It is easy to become impatient and critical of others because we don't understand what they are dealing with in their own lives and we have not taken the time to find out. All of us live with either public or private pain from time to time and our lack of empathy for the issues others struggle with often cause us to be impatient and critical. The truth is that if we had to walk in their shoes we would probably be struggling with some of the same things.
The Fruit of the Spirit is all about grace in our relationships. The fruit of our lower nature is not about grace but about us. In every relationship we have the choice of extending and living out the Grace God extends to us or conversely, choosing the selfish route of judgement and critical spirits.
I would sum up the attributes of grace this way:
- I will be slow to judge and criticize
- I will be patient and forbearing with others
- In my words and attitudes I will seek to encourage and lift up rather than discourage and tear down
- I will not judge motives
- I will forgive easily
- I will allow the Holy Spirit to convict others rather than playing that role myself
- I will be empathetic and understanding
- I will seek to display the Fruit of the Spirit in all of my relationships and interactions
- I will choose to assume the best
- I will refrain from gossip
All of T.J. Addington's books including his latest, Deep Influence, are available from the author for the lowest prices and a $2.00 per book discount on orders of ten or more.