I had the wonderful privilege of working at a summer camp called Camp of the Nations, in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. It was a fairly typical camp. All of us that worked there wore many hats and couldn’t wait for the kids to come, and by the end of the week we couldn’t wait for them to go… we would be exhausted.
I was the head counselor, lifeguard, swim instructor, and one of the camp medics. Because the station was right by the pool, I handled a majority of the emergencies. The kids that came to this camp were kids from inner cities who received a scholarship to come. They were bussed out far from the city into the woods and they were extremely nervous, feeling somewhat vulnerable in this surrounding. I found the “nurse’s station” to be the place where the biggest breakthroughs were for the Gospel, getting through some tough shells.
It was interesting, the usually tough inner-city kids seemed to get worked up over the smallest things: bug bites, scratches, minor sunburns were major issues when they were already outside their comfort zone. So, I reassured them, loved on them, and applied whatever remedy they needed to their ailments.
Early in the season, I discovered cases of an ointment called Rhuli Gel that was donated and figured it was worth a try on the burns and itches some of the kids showed up with. Word travelled fast that I had this “wonder gel” than made the ow-ies go away and I began to find kid after kid showing up for “treatment,” sometimes without any visible ailment. The kids would sit in my chair pointing to a visible or “invisible” spot and I would apply some Rhuli Gel and a word of encouragement, and they would be reassured and happily back on their way.
Week after week a new set of kids would come, many from the same outreach ministries, passing along the news of this wonder gel. One week, a group sent their own real nurse, and she was eager to learn what this miracle of modern science and medicine actually was.
She met me at the nurse’s station and sat down filled with curiosity as though my scientific explanation of this miracle medicine was forthcoming. I hauled out of the storage facility a whole case of this Rhuli gel and told her she could have a whole case to take home.
Excitedly she looked into the box and began reading through the list of ingredients and discovered the only major ingredient in Rhuli gel was aloe. Yep, aloe! That was it. We had a good laugh together over how the Rhuli gel only made the spot feel a little cool and tingly, but the love and encouragement with which it was applied did the healing.
At Camp of the Nations, these kids had no history, no past, and no reputation. At Camp they were just normal kids who needed some love and encouragement, and a little bit of mercy and grace. At camp they found both.
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. Colossians 3:13 KJV.
Grace and mercy could hardly be understood outside the Bible and impossible to understand outside the sacrifice of Jesus. Through Him we can have a full, complete example and understanding of both of these gifts which run counterculture.
Paul writes once again to the Colossians, reminding them of how Christ followers ought to behave.
He reminds them to “forebear” one another, to bear or to endure, to show mercy, restraint. Putting up with things that the world might normally desire to retaliate with, defend themselves against, or stand up against. Paul reminds them they don’t need to “die on every hill,” in fact rarely should we respond to most hills. Just take it, endure it. Even that reaction is baffling and winsome.
But this next word I love, and the root of this word is used twice in this verse. Paul says to “forgive” one another, the same way you have been forgiven. The root of both words is charis in Greek, or grace. Literally, Paul reminds the Colossians as well as us to apply grace to each other, the same way that grace was applied to us through Christ. “Grace” one another, like we ourselves were “graced.”
That’s a pretty powerful reminder, but when you put it that way, how could we not. The Bible is filled with reminders of God’s grace to us and yet we are often slow to respond in kind.
Imagine, when we are hurt or wronged what the outcome could be when we respond to the insults, hurt, disagreements with nothing but love, mercy, and grace. Applying grace like a miracle gel to heal our oppressors or tormentors and the hurt that not only do they carry, but that they pass along. Perhaps the miracle gel of love, mercy, and grace can heal us both.
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes Jr.
President / CEO
March 29, 2022