Grace: Reflection on Ephesians 4:32
There are many lines in the Bible that are very meaningful. An example comes from Ephesians 4:32:
âBe kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, as in Christ God has forgiven you. “
In this sentence, Paul summed up the biblical message: that we are to be good, compassionate, and forgiving. In other places the gospel is summarized in other ways.
In Deuteronomy 6: 5 we are taught: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and in Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which is repeated throughout the Gospels and the Epistles. . In the gospels, Jesus says that these two commandments sum up the whole law (Matthew 22:40). Jesus also said, according to the gospel of John (15:13), “there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend”.
Or Paul, in the Epistle to the Romans, writes: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercy of God, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, that is your spiritual act of worshiping â(Romans 12: 1).
But it is not love or sacrifice explicitly that is presented here in this verse to the Ephesians, but grace. The translators chose to âforgive and forgiveâ. Yet the main word for forgiveness is absent in this command to forgive. Instead, the term ordinarily associated with grace appears.
The word “grace” is one of the most remarkable words in the Bible. It is multifaceted, much like the Hebrew word “hesed”, often translated as “unshakeable love”, but can only be defined by a litany of expressions, no word or phrase is capable of carrying the burden.
It is the same with grace, which signifies benevolence, favor; the expression of favor associated with the offering of a gift. It is one of the words used to express the state of being blessed, or happy, very close to “joy”, and it is the same root embedded in the concept of gratitude. It was even used once when Jesus healed the blind (see Luke 7:21). And that implies mercy, it’s one of the words in the Bible for forgiveness.
Conversely, the underlying principle that governs how people often behave is something like the so-called survival instinct: take care of yourself, no one else will; don’t trust anyone; if you want something done right, do it yourself; do whatever it takes to survive.
There is a stark contrast between âanything that survives selfishness and a divine love that sacrifices itself, and it is this contrast that we are faced with. We are called to a life of service and sacrifice. âGraceâ is one of the catch-all words for this call.
In English, the noun “grace” is not accompanied by an associated verb. But in the original language and in this verse, that’s exactly what is found, the verbal form with the same root. It is an action, rich and varied moreover, which can only be defined by a litany of expressions; to give generously, to have gratitude and mercy, to heal, to serve, to sacrifice and to forgive.
The translators had to choose a word from several possibilities, and they chose âforgiveâ, but it means more than that. I took the liberty of creating a verb in English, if only for the purposes of today’s thinking. The term is “grace”.
Let me rephrase this sentence using this new verb, keeping in mind the rich variety of meanings it contains. Even if it goes against current habits, let it be something that we aspire to, at least something to consider. Listen to it this way:
âBecome kind and compassionate to one another, being gracious as God in Christ has given you grace. “
Plus, it’s not a bad reminder of who we are.
Dr. Mark Allison is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Delaware.