On several occasions the writer has written, or remarked, that the Church spends much of her time trying to make non-Christians act like Christians.

We do not question the validity of this observation, but when it was made recently in a group of ministers, men honestly and earnestly preaching the Gospel, one godly pastor observed: “My problem is trying to get Christians to act like Christians.”

Sober thought reveals how true this is in our own lives, and in the lives of other Christians. How few of us act as Christians should act! How frequently our actions, and reactions, are much more like the unregenerate than like the regenerate! How often we belie our Christian profession by word and deed!

People become Christians through faith in Jesus Christ and in no other way. It is impossible to do anything which will bring us into a right relationship with God. This has been done for us and must be received by faith.

Nevertheless, living as one of the redeemed is a matter of growing in grace and involves an act of the will, a will enlightened, motivated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Living as a Christian means the exhibiting of many facets of God’s grace in our hearts, all of them the outgrowth of Christian love and all of them polished and brightened by practice.

Their sequence is inconsequential, for they combine to make up the whole of Christian graces by which the believer should be recognized. Furthermore, these graces are the outward expression of an inner Presence and attitude, the putting into action of those things we know are good and right. This we do not for our own glorification but for the glory of our God.

Sympathy. There is hardly a day that we do not come in contact with someone who has been buffeted by the winds of adversity. All around us there are those who sorrow, who are the victims of illness, suffering, bereavement, or privation.

How utterly un-Christian to be indifferent to these unfortunate! True sympathy is begotten by love and expressed at the personal level. Only the Christian can know true sympathy, for he has experienced the comfort of the Holy Spirit and knows, or should know, how to sympathize with others.

Speaking of this the Apostle Paul says: “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:4).

Compassion. The Christian should show compassion. There is a distinction between sympathy and compassion, for compassion involves depth of understanding—one sinner’s being sorry for another sinner. As Dr. Joseph Blinko has said, “One beggar telling another beggar where he has found bread.”

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Compassion looks deep into the heart, suffers with and understands the need of the other person, and communicates that understanding. Compassion ignores the unlovely as it sees God’s image in most unlikely places.

Courtesy. Courtesy is the art and grace of treating others with respect and understanding—just as we would like to be treated. It is politeness in the face of provocation, the turning of the other cheek when we have been offended.

Courtesy involves the soft answer which can turn away wrath. It is the recognition of the niceties of social intercourse even in the midst of trying circumstances.

Only too often unhappy situations develop because of the lack of common courtesy. That this should be true where Christians are concerned is a travesty, reflecting dishonor on the very name Christian.

Patience. We live in a day of multiplied tensions, due, in part, to the pace of modern living. Impatience has dimmed the witness of many a Christian. How often we must distress our Lord by our impatience with others. Some people seem slow, inarticulate, and inept—how do we appear to our Lord? And yet he in infinitely patient with us.

Tactfulness. Frankness is not always for the glory of God. We have known some Christians who have prided themselves on being frank, and we have known some who have been hurt by this frankness. Telling the truth can be done in love, taking into consideration the feelings of others. There is a vast difference in the remarks of two shoe salesmen, one of whom said, “I’m sorry madam, but your foot is too big for this shoe,” while the other said, “I am sorry, but this shoe is too small for you.”

Tact is that grace which enables us to sense the feelings of others and to act towards them or communicate with them in a way which preserves human dignity.

Forgiveness. Without a spirit of forgiveness human relationships cannot be maintained at the Christian level. We live in the light of God’s forgiveness, and it is an attitude which God requires of us. Forgiveness involves the divesting of the robe of self-righteousness and being clothed with the humility which is a part of true Christianity.

Practicality. Where we so often fail is at the point of implementation. To too many of us Christianity is a matter of theory, the Christian graces nebulous attributes which we expect in others but fail to exhibit ourselves.

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Practicality involves helping people in the place where they need help. It is not just a kind word but also a kind act where that act can do the most good. Where food is needed, give food. Where clothing is needed give clothing. Where comfort, sympathy, courtesy, and patience are needed, show these in a tangible way. The Apostle James admonishes us: “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Acting like a Christian means just that.

In these things the Christian must rigorously search his own heart, at the same time determining by God’s help to grow in those aspects of grace which so intimately affect others, while they reflect Christ in our own hearts.

C. S. Lewis has well said, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor or not; act as if you did. As soon as you do this you find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

The exhibiting of the grace of God in our dealings with others must be for the glory of God. The unbelieving world sees Christ through the lives of Christians—and what a sorry spectacle is often paraded before them!

The exhibiting of Christian graces is a matter of practice, of growing, and of outward witnessing. In this the effectiveness of our salvation is exhibited to others. When we fail to act as Christians we dishonor the One whose name we bear.

The world needs the evidence of sanctification in the Christian’s life. This is evidence of the power of God to redeem and change, and also a balm to a sin-sick world.

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