“The Lord is gracious…” Psalm 145:8a (NASB)
Are you a gracious person? What does it mean to be gracious? Does it even matter?
I believe it matters a great deal, because a gracious man or woman is a blessing to humanity. If true, then an ungracious man or woman is a curse.
The Bible describes God as being gracious; since this a fact, ought His children–Christians–strive to be like Him? And if He is gracious, we who are called by His Name should strive to not only mimic His behavior, but become like Him in every aspect of our lives.
We are exhorted in Scripture to be “imitators of God, as beloved children…” (Ephesians 5:1). This Greek word “imitator” is an interesting one: mimetes. It comes from another Greek word, mimeomai, which means “a mimic, an actor.”
In other words, we are to “mimic” God’s behavior, much like what an actor does when he or she plays a part in a movie or play. You may have heard the term “getting into character,” a mental and physical process actors use to absorb themselves into the mindset of the person they are imitating on the set.
Similarly, we are to “get into God’s character” by studying and meditating on His Word, striving to bring our personalities under the control of His Holy Spirit. This is easier said than done, of course, but is an endeavor worth every ounce of effort.
My childhood was a disaster, filled with violence, hatred, rage and other dysfunctional weirdness. It was so bad, in fact, that I ran away from home at 15 years old and never went back. All this to say, graciousness was not an attribute in my home that was regularly practiced and mentored.
When I began to walk with Jesus, I knew that I had countless issues that I had to deal with. It was easy for me to acknowledge that I was a messed up individual, and I longed to be a better man. At an early age, perhaps as young as 17 or 18 years old, I decided that Jesus was someone I wanted to emulate and chose Him as my role model.
For a couple of years, I have been studying about the gracious character and nature of the Lord. Psalm 145 has become one of my favorites and speaks of His gracious nature.
The word gracious is defined in several ways; I like the way “free dictionary.com” describes it and will list just the first three definitions:
1. Characterized by kindness and warm courtesy.
2. Characterized by tact and propriety: responded to the insult with gracious humor.
3. Of a merciful or compassionate nature.
One could spend a lifetime in musing over these three characteristics of the word gracious and still not exhaust every nuance of meaning. In looking them over, the obvious question to ask is, “Am I gracious?” Better yet, let my personalize it by asking myself:
“Roy, is your personality and the way you deal with other people characterized by kindness and warm courtesy?” Asking such a question takes moral fortitude, because I am probably not far off the mark when I suggest that most of us are deficient in this area.
“Roy, is your personality and the way you deal with other people characterized by tact and propriety?” In other words, how do you and I treat people in our everyday lives? How do we treat our wives, husbands, or children? Our roommates? Co-workers? Rude or clueless people on public transportation?
How do you treat your enemies? People who neither like nor respect you? This is a tough one.
“Roy, do you have a merciful and compassionate nature?”
Have you noticed that people, in general, are kind to animals? Did you know that Adolph Hitler was an animal lover? I bring this up because, contrary to popular opinion, someone who is kind to animals does not always guarantee they will extend that kindness to their fellow humans.
Being a gracious person is a high and holy calling. I understand that there are people who are seemingly born with a gracious nature and are elegant and royal in their treatment of others.
An image that comes to my mind when I think of a gracious individual is someone from the antebellum South or a 19th century well-bred English gentleman or lady. A person with impeccable manners who carries themselves with a certain noble air and demeanor.
God is a gracious God. His character is marked by compassion and mercy. Jesus was no doubt the quintessential gentleman, exemplified in the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. I long to be like that.
Being around a gracious individual is like walking around in a comfortable pair of slippers. They are easy to get along with. An excellent test of whether or not you are a gracious individual is how you are when you are traveling with others, or staying as a guest in their home.
I had a friend that I traveled with every now and then. He was not a gracious person. For example, whenever he made a cup of coffee, he never thought to make me one while he was in the process of making his. I know this is a little thing and not something to make a big deal over, but this kind of behavior was not isolated to this one particular incident. He is a selfish individual who is concerned primarily about his own needs and wants.
When we were deciding where to eat, he always wanted to eat at his favorite place. Again, not a big deal, but indicative of a man who was neither gracious nor that pleasant to travel with. Everything had to happen on his schedule, and as long as you were on the same timetable as his, things went smooth. If I wanted to do something different that he might not have preferred, he would accommodate my request but didn’t enjoy it as much as if he had called the shots.
Finally, after years of dealing with his selfishness, I cut ties with him; it was one of the best decisions I made and I was glad to be free of that constricting mentality.
I wonder what kind of a traveling companion Jesus must have been. Did He insist on using the shower first in the morning? Of course not. Would He get up in the morning and only make coffee for Himself? No, I couldn’t imagine that.
Do you think Jesus, when Him and His disciples went into someone’s home for the first time to spend the night, checked out the spare bedroom to find the most comfortable bed to sleep in and, finding it, put his tunic on the bed, signifying to the disciples that He claimed it for Himself? Again, I couldn’t imagine Him doing this.
But we do this, don’t we? I mean, if you go to someone’s house and have the choice of sleeping on a nice bed in your own private room with its own bathroom or the living room couch, which one would you choose? Friends, being gracious is not an easy thing to be.
Again, I long to be a gracious man, but I realize I have a long, hard journey ahead of me in this area. Hopefully, as the Scriptures teach, “… we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18 KJV)
I know I’m not where I want to be in this area, but I’m hoping I’m not where I used to be. To be slowly transformed from “glory to glory” is the great hope, so that one day we can hear from others as they hang around us and observe our characters, that we are gracious individuals.
Like an old pair of comfortable slippers.