Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. - 1 Timothy 1:13
Years ago, my pastor often spoke this thought, “I can understand why people have pride of face and pride of place; and I have seen many examples of people with pride of race. What I cannot understand at all is pride of grace.” In truth, there is no good reason for pride in any man. But pride of grace is the most ridiculous pride of all. Yet, such a contradiction in terms does exist. Paul had to rebuke the Corinthian church with these words:
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive [as a gift]? And if you did receive it [as a gift], why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Are believers different from non-believers? Yes, they are. Are there differences of grace, maturity, and strength of faith among believers? Yes there are. Yet, it is contrary to the grace we profess when we look for differences among us then use those differences as an occasion for pride and boasting.
We who believe the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace have less reason than anyone to boast. Yet, when we listen to some believers talk or read their posts on social media sites we must conclude that pride remains strong in our flesh. It is not likely that we will find any professed believer saying, “I am better than those who believe 'X' because I believe 'Y'" But, we can often find those who profess God’s grace calling those with whom they disagree “ignorant fools,” “idiots’” or worse. We do not have to search far to find examples of such verbal stone-casting,
But, of this we can be certain: The authority of the Word of God’s grace does not give to us believers the permission to be ungracious! Paul says that God used his ignorance and unbelief as an occasion for mercy, not judgment. In the face of God’s mercy to us who were at one time equally ignorant and foolish, how can we turn on those yet in ignorance and unbelief and speak abusively to and about them? Have we forgotten (become ignorant of) our former ignorance from which God saved our worthless souls? Have we forgotten the years of spiritual foolishness we lived so that, now, we feel qualified to point the accusing finger at those yet walking the broad way that leads to destruction? Who is the more ignorant, bothers: the blind man who cannot see the truth or the seeing man who acts contrary to the truth he sees? Who is the real fool: the blind man who walks into a wall or the seeing man who calls him an idiot for doing so.
To hear some believers talk, you would think that Paul exhorted Timothy with:
The Lord's servant must not speak graciously; instead, he must be harsh to everyone, able to insult, bearing grudges against everyone who disagrees. Those who oppose him he must ruthlessly ridicule, in the hope that God will humiliate them, make them repent, come to their senses, and acknowledge that we were right all along.
But, what Paul actually wrote was:
And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
I am humbled by Paul’s word to Titus:
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. FOR WE OURSELVES ALSO WERE AT ONE TIME, FOOLISH, DISOBEDIENT, DECEIVED, SERVING DIVERS LUSTS AND PLEASURES, LIVING IN MALICE AND ENVY, HATEFUL, AND HATING ONE ANOTHER. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY HE SAVED US, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:1-7)
Indeed, as the Scriptures say, may our speech always be with grace seasoned with salt.