You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” 1 Thessalonians 1: 6-7

I used to tell my children that we needed to be careful about what we said and did because someone was always watching us. We could be a good example and encourage others to be Christ-like, or we could be a bad example and discourage others from learning about or growing in Christ.

Now that I am older, I realize we’ll never be perfect examples. Life can wear us down and suck the joy out of our hearts.

But God can use us anyway. Seeing how a sister in Christ handles financial difficulties with a smile on her face or how a brother faces a poor medical prognosis with courage and faith can strengthen us during our challenging times. And that strengthening can then help others.

Jesus wants believers to be an example. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said, You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). We can’t hide from others. Someone is always watching. But even if we’re not perfect, we can still be an example of faith to others if we try to reflect Jesus.

What do others see in us? Do we show them how to answer grumpy people with kind words? How to bear loss and suffering with patience? How to be content when turmoil swirls all around us?

Let’s seek to reflect the light of the Gospel to a dark and sinful world and give courage to Christians in every place by our examples of faith, joy, and love.

Jesus, thank you that your Spirit enables me to express his fruit by faith. Send others to show me how to trust in him to live in and through me so that I can, in turn, show others. Together, we can all learn how to be a great example of your love, joy and peace in the lives of others as we walk in your Spirit’s strength. Amen.

Colossians 3:13 says, “As Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”  Really, God?  Begin the process of healing.  How?  Keep no list of wrongs.  Pray for your antagonists rather than plot against them. Hate the wrong without hating wrongdoers.  Turn your attention away from what they did to you to what Christ did for you.  Outrageous as it may seem, Jesus died for them too.  If He thinks they are worth forgiving, they are.

Does that make forgiveness easy?  No.  Quick?  Seldom.  Painless?  Forgiveness vacillates.  It has fits and starts, good days and bad.  Anger intermingled with love.  Irregular mercy.  We make progress only to make a wrong turn.  Step forward and fall back.  But it’s okay.  As long as you’re trying to forgive, you’re forgiving.  It’s when you no longer try that bitterness sets in.  So keep trying.  Keep forgiving.

Vengeance is God’s.  He will repay—whether ultimately on the Day of Judgment or intermediately in this life.  God can discipline your abusive  boss.  He can bring your ex to his knees or to her senses.  Forgiveness doesn’t diminish justice; it just entrusts it to God.  He guarantees the right retribution.  The God of justice has the precise prescription.

Forgive your enemies?  That’s where you and I come in. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger,” Paul wrote, “and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:26 -27).  Don’t give the devil territory or ground. Bitterness invites him to occupy a space in your heart, to rent a room. Believe me, he will move in and stink up the place!  When it comes to forgiveness, all of us are beginners.  Stay the course.