Make every effort to live in peace with everyone. – Hebrews 12:14
When God says to “live in peace with everyone,” He meant everyone, even the complaining child, angry neighbor, grouchy clerk, and bitter co-worker.
As if to test me with this, I recently had two dramatically different encounters with employees at the grocery store. When I approached the first employee, she smiled and asked if I needed help. She then happily walked me to where I could find exactly what I was looking for. Before she turned to leave, another woman approached and asked her advice about protein bars. The clerk pointed out her favorite and slapped a sticker on the bar that read “This one is on me.” When the customer realized she’d just received a free gift, she was thrilled, singing “thank you, thank you, thank you”.
The second encounter happened while I was checking out. The lines were super long due to a fundraising event at the store. A woman holding a small plate of food, looking for the shortest checkout line, accidentally approached the Customer Service desk asking to pay for her plate. The employee angrily shook her head and pointed to an express line that had thirteen other people in it. She hadn’t said a word, but her body language clearly expressed rejection and annoyance.
My initial reaction was anger… “How could she be so rude? Wasn’t her job to help others? I think I’ll write a letter to the store manager, or better yet, I’ll talk to one right now.”
As I made eye contact with the woman holding her plate, I motioned for her to step in front of me, since I was next in line. She thanked me and whispered, “She must be having a tough day.”
Her words were like cold water in my face. She was the one who had been treated poorly, yet she was not angry, she was compassionate. Following her lead, I suppressed my anger and thought about what had caused the Customer Service employee’s bad mood. After the woman paid for her plate, she turned to me and expressed her gratitude. I smiled and said, “thank YOU!” Truly, she had given me a free gift.
When God said, make every effort to live in peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14), He had our best interest in mind. He knows forgiveness leads to peace and un-forgiveness leads to bitterness. When we let bitterness take root in our souls, toxicity seeps in and negatively impacts those around us.
Compassion is the key to erasing bitterness.
Walking out of the store, I thought of someone else I need to forgive often. I imagined all the difficulties in her life, reasons why she might be hurting. As I got in my car, I felt lighter physically and spiritually. I wasn’t carrying resentment or judgement with me only compassion and gratefulness. Thank God we can be reminded, even at the grocery store, of how Jesus, the Prince of Peace lived while He was on earth.
Are you angry at anyone right now? Has bitterness taken root in your heart? Who do you need to forgive today?
Take the first step and pray that God will purify your heart. Give Him anything toxic in your soul and ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Then take a moment and make a list of all the reasons why life might be hard for the one who angers you. Ask God to grow compassion in your heart and let it be the key that erases bitterness for good.
This is my prayer for you:
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you. – 2 Thessalonians 3:16
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