By John Blase
“Never hit a girl.”
If you asked me for the precise origin of where I first heard that statement, I would waffle. All I know is that it was an important facet of the way I was raised, not repeated every day, but said aloud in teachable moments. My forming-boy-mind learned from my parents that I was never to hit a girl. This rule was so ingrained that if my parents had gotten wind of a scuffle between me and a girl with said girl ended up getting hit by me, their son, then regardless of her innocence or guilt in the situation, my parents would have said something like this: “You were raised better than that.”
“That, however, is not the way of life you learned” (Ephesians 4:20 NIV).
That’s the apostle Paul’s variation on my parent’s pronouncement. But he’s not talking about a rule from how my parents raised me. Paul’s sweeping broadly. He’s talking about being “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (v.32).
The only way to live in community, whatever your community looks like, is to constantly forgive one another. Wait, did I say constantly? Okay, yes, I did. The continual practice of overlooking offenses is the only way to stay in a circle of friends, a marriage, a church, a family…the list goes on. But this particular “one another” can be tricky because of how we may have learned about it, how we were raised to understand this vital Christian practice.
Some of us were raised to essentially say the offense didn’t matter, sweep it under the rug and forget about it. Take that to the extreme, which we often do, and you wind up a kind of doormat. A trespass is real, and real things matter. Injustices should rouse our anger. Here Paul gives us a greenlight, “in your anger,” followed by a red light: “do not sin” (v.26 NIV).
We are to “speak truthfully” to one another (v.25 NIV). Name the offense, call it what it is, and work toward forgiving one another as Christ forgave us. Some offenses can be dealt with quickly, before the sun goes down. But the reality in our lives is that some offenses take longer—days, weeks, even years. The key is the constant practice: never give up on one another. Because we were raised better than that. Or if we weren’t, now we know better.