Now, this week my thoughts have gone towards the book of Proverbs, to think more about Women of the Word. This book is PACKED with crucial things for us womenfolk to learn! So many truths, vital to Christian living.
The first one I looked at is one that I fear is much lacking in many in this day and age, and in my own heart, too...
"A gracious woman retaineth honour:"
It's a response that should be the first one upon our hearts and lives, but far too often I see a LACK of grace shown by women all around me. Especially on the Internet.
Commenters on blogs and websites.
There just seems to be more judgement and criticism, and less grace.
What does this verse tell us about a gracious woman? She retains honour, or respect. The Hebrew word actually implies "weight", or influence. If you are gracious, you will be respected by others, and what you say will have influence over others. They will listen to you, if you are gracious.
What is the conclusion you can draw from someone who DOESN'T show grace in her speech and behaviour? She loses honour. She loses the respect of those around her. She won't have a godly and positive influence over others, and people won't listen to her.
So, how are we to BE that gracious woman? What does the Bible teach us about being gracious?
Before anything else, I think it's important to understand grace, and being gracious.
There are two definitions in the online dictionary.
"courteous, kind, and pleasant,"
"showing divine grace"
The first is being gracious in a general sense. It's the behaviour we are to exhibit when being gracious towards others.
The second is to do with how God deals with us, and how we can then reflect His person in our OWN behaviour. It's to do with mercy. Forgiveness. Compassion. It's how God deals with us, despite our sin. He is able to extend grace because He is love and kindness personified. Even though we sin, and err, He is gracious, merciful and forgiving.
If God shows such graciousness towards us, we ought to show it towards others around us. Simple as that.
So, what Bible verses point us toward HOW we extend grace to others?
Needless to say, Proverbs has a few lessons for us. Right back in chapter one, we have our first instruction.
"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck."
The polar opposite, and the thing that grates on my ear, are those who are Pharisaical and judgemental. Thinking they are right, and everyone else is wrong. Sitting in judgement over those who don't agree, and saying they are sinners if they disagree. It's just not right. It's proud, and arrogant, to think you have an opinion that is more valuable than others' - to think you have a monopoly on the truth. Again, having an opinion is fine. As my hubby once said to me, after someone else said I WAS opinionated, there's nothing wrong with being opinionated! Having an opinion is good, and right. It's making sure you show grace when you EXPRESS the opinion.
Another way that people can tend to lack grace is in how they RESPOND to the opinions of others. I have seen it, countless times - folks taking things too personally. Say someone says they choose to breastfeed. Someone who couldn't, or just didn't, breastfeed, can then get defensive about their choice NOT to. We can't go about being that sensitive, and then being ungracious in how we respond to the other person. Being constantly on the defensive can incline you towards a lack of grace in how you respond. It's something I know I need to guard my heart over.
On a similar vein, there can be a tendency of some to read into the words of others, instead of just READING the words of others. I have experienced, far too many times, those who get offended, and then respond ungraciously, because they have taken another's words and opinions the wrong way. Many times, I have had to remind myself, and others, to take the BEST meaning and tone in whatever you read. If you take it critically and negatively, you will struggle to show grace to the person who has spoken or written.
Proverbs 3 tells us that seeking after wisdom and knowledge
"shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck."
Once more, we are decorated by grace and a gracious spirit, if we SEARCH for wisdom and knowledge. Working at becoming more Christ-like.
Not only to search, like a one-off treasure hunt. We need to GROW in grace, too.
"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
2 Peter 3:18
It's something we need to diligently WORK at. Not to be content with the measure of grace we display, but to desire to grow, more and more, in the graciousness we show toward others. You see, too, what we need to be doing to GROW in that grace? We need to get to know our Lord. The more we understand our Saviour, and HIS grace, love and goodness, the more we will become like Him - a reflection of HIS grace.
The next verse that I thought of was regarding our speech.
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
Let me just paraphrase it and put it into a modern context for you.
"Let no rotten and worthless communication proceed out of your fingertips, but that which is good to build up and encourage, that it many minister grace to the readers".
As I already mentioned, I have witnessed some downright nasty, mean and vitriolic "speech" being used on the Internet, in various settings. As daughters of the King, professing faith in Christ, we must be SO careful - whether in ACTUAL speech, or VIRTUAL speech - to only use words, and use them in such a way, that will bring grace to the recipient. Building each other up. Encouraging. I'm not saying you have to agree with everything that you read or hear. More that we need to express our point of view with grace. Gentleness. Love. It can be SO hard, if you feel passionate about something, and you DO disagree quite strongly, but it can be done. "Speaking the truth in love" is the watchword. Sometimes that may actually mean saying NOTHING, but that's a slight deviation. We can be a gracious woman in our speech.
I really don't want to be a woman who is despised and ignored, because I don't display grace in my life. I want grace to be an ornament to my character, and by GOD'S grace toward me, I trust it shall be.