Verse 32. "Be ye kind one to another" - ginesqe-crhstoi? Be kind and obliging to each other; study good breeding and gentleness of manners. A Christian cannot be a savage, and he need not be a boor. Never put any person to needless pain.
"Tender-hearted" - eusplagcnoi? Compassionate; having the bowels easily moved (as the word implies) to commiserate the state of the wretched and distressed.
"Forgiving one another" - Should you receive any injury from a brother, or from any man, be as ready to forgive him, on his repentance and acknowledgment, as God was, for Christ's sake, to forgive you when you repented of your sins, and took refuge in his mercy.
1. THE exhortations given in this chapter, if properly attended to, have the most direct tendency to secure the peace of the individual, the comfort of every family, and the welfare and unity of every Christian society. That God never prohibits any thing that is useful to us, is an unshaken truth.
And that he never commands what has not the most pointed relation to our present and eternal welfare, is not less so. How is it, then, that we do not glory in his commandments and rejoice in his prohibitions? If the gratification of our fleshly propensities could do us good, that gratification had never been forbidden. God plants thorns in the way that would lead us to death and perdition.
2. From the provision which God has made for the soul's salvation, we may see the nature, and in some sense the extent, of the salvation provided. Much on this subject has been said in the preceding chapter, and the same subject is continued here. God requires that the Church shall be holy, so that it may be a proper habitation for himself; and he requires that each believer should be holy, and that he should, under the influences of his grace, arrive at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ! ver. 13. This is astonishing; but God is able to make all grace abound towards us.
3. It is the will of God that Christians should be well instructed; that they should become wise and intelligent; and have their understandings well cultivated and improved. Sound learning is of great worth, even in religion; the wisest and best instructed Christians are the most steady, and may be the most useful. If a man be a child in knowledge, he is likely to be tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine; and often lies at the mercy of interested, designing men: the more knowledge he has, the more safe is his state. If our circumstances be such that we have few means of improvement, we should turn them to the best account. "Partial knowledge is better than total ignorance; he who cannot get all he may wish, must take heed to acquire all that he can." If total ignorance be a bad and dangerous thing, every degree of knowledge lessens both the evil and the danger. It must never be forgotten that the Holy Scriptures themselves are capable of making men wise unto salvation, if read and studied with faith in Christ.
4. Union among the followers of Christ is strongly recommended. How can spiritual brethren fall out by the way? Have they not all one Father, all one Head? Do they not form one body, and are they not all members of each other? Would it not be monstrous to see the nails pulling out the eyes, the hands tearing off the flesh from the body, the teeth biting out the tongue, &c., &c.? And is it less so to see the members of a Christian society bite and devour each other, till they are consumed one of another? Every member of the mystical body of Christ should labour for the comfort and edification of the whole, and the honour of the Head. He that would live a quiet life, and keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, must be as backward to take offense as to give it. Would all act on this plan (and surely it is as rational as it is Christian) we should soon have glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will among men.
5. A roughness of manners is to some unavoidable; it is partly owing to the peculiar texture of their mind, and partly to their education. But there are others who glory in, and endeavour to cultivate, this ungentle disposition; under this is often concealed a great degree of spiritual pride, and perhaps some malignity; for they think that this roughness gives them a right to say grating, harsh, and severe things. They should be taught another lesson; and if they will not demean themselves as they ought, they should be left to themselves, and no man should associate with them.
They are not Christians, and they act beneath the character of men.