The Brand

“From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren.  Amen.” Galatians 6: 17-18

The tipping point in any personal relationship is the capacity of two people to grow in their awareness and their appreciation for the pain they cause one another. Long lasting relationships are not death-defying partnerships.  They are life-giving creations of God’s grace and they are sustained by “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Grace filled people don’t just admit to God when they are wrong. They change behavior to avoid repeatedly hurting those they have offended.  Paul was not ashamed to say, “Let no one cause me trouble.” He had been hurt and wanted it to stop. There is simply no education in the second kick of a mule.

Change in behavior is not made by saying, “I’m sorry.” It begins by admitting to God, “I was wrong.” It leads to the humility to say to others, “Please forgive me.”  Forgiven people should be the first to forgive. When they don’t race to forgive, they are full of themselves, not God’s grace.  The point: Race to grace.

Note to self: Praying for someone who has offended you, doesn’t make what they did to you any less offensive. Praying for them softens your heart to forgive them, and to let go of the offense. Prayer may not always change the offender, but praying for “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” changes you.

Holding onto past offenses requires a white-knuckled grip of the soul. It transforms offense, real or imagined, into life-sapping resentment. Relationships based on an expectation of perfect treatment from imperfect people have the life expectancy of a fruit fly, and bear no fruit.

The Fruit of The Spirit fills a person with the capacity to forgive, to let go, and to move on with the offender. Grace is revealed, by letting go of the offense, not choking the life out of the offender.

Citizens of Graceland are marked by “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The very sight or thought of an offender can release a revealing narrative. When the offended meets the offender, the conversation should not begin with “Once upon a time.” Paul came to the point of grace with those who offended him when he could say, “From now on.” Grace makes a difference between repeating a story and creating a new one.

Paul prayed for those who hurt him, and found “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to say, “From now on.” These words reveal a willing spirit to begin again with those who hurt him, not a passion to punish them.

Relationships within the body of Christ are rarely pain-free, and those who enter into the fellowship of believers will need grace to deal with hurting people. People who have been hurt will hurt other people. It is never wise to look towards hurting people as the source of “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” They must be recipients of this grace before they become conduits of His grace.

Paul bore brand-marks on his physical body that were a result of the hatred of his enemies, the betrayal by his friends, the rejection by his peers, and the constant conspiracies of his competitors. They were not painless encounters, and they left a mark on him. When Paul ran his hands over his scars, they reminded him of Jesus, not his offenders. Grace always will.

Paul’s words indicate an expectation on his part to see a change in those who hurt him. “From now on” expresses willingness, to move one with his offenders, not a death-wish hold on a grudge against them.

Praying for those who hurt him turned Paul’s brand-marks into signposts of God’s grace in his life. The cowboy culture has an expression, “Riding for The Brand.” This describes a cowboy’s willingness to identify with the owner of the outfit, obey his orders, and protect his cattle, come what may. Paul’s identification with The Owner over-rode any pain or price he experienced “Riding for The Brand.”

“From now on” kind of grace requires a passion for prayer in those who have been offended. Praying for offenders is not a one-time event but a life-long process. Grace is not a short ride in a rodeo. Grace comes from a close walk with Jesus down a long road with hurting people. Prayer is more than a little talk with Jesus. Prayer is a long walk with Him, and releases His grace.

Painful scars have the power to trigger stories that begin with “Once upon a time.” “The grace of The Lord Jesus Christ” releases the power to say, “From now on.” When holding on to an offense gets in the way of moving on with the offender, let go of the offense and take hold of Jesus. Pray your way to grace.

Prayer releases the offense, and releases grace in your spirit for the offender, by bearing in you The Fruit of The Spirit. Anything less is Brand X. Don’t settle. TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!