By Allen White
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:31-5:2
Every conflict eventually faces a fork in the road. Do we choose to reconcile or do we choose to part ways? There may be a middle ground of not parting ways and not reconciling, but it’s really just the slower route to the path of departure. Sometimes there is nothing we can do about someone leaving the relationship. But, we can choose which path our hearts will follow.
Whether it’s possible to reconcile with the other person or not, Paul outlines two spiritual paths in this passage. The first path burns with anger, holds a grudge, and secretly wishes the other person will get hit by a bus. The opposite path is far more difficult because it involves kindness, compassion and forgiveness.
Immediately, we might think the choice is obvious. Wouldn’t it be great if Christians treated each other with kindness and compassion? Interpretation – wouldn’t it be great if they treated me that way? Who wouldn’t sign up for that? The focus here is on what we give rather than what we might or might not receive.
Paul paints the picture for us. Someone has done something that provokes bitterness, rage and anger. Rather than responding with brawling, slander and every form of malice, Paul says to leave those things behind. The better path is to replace rage and anger with kindness, and brawling and slander with compassion. But, how do we forgive someone when we’d rather knock his block off?
We forgive because God has forgiven us (Colossians 3:13). Now, don’t take this as “If we don’t forgive, God might revoke His forgiveness of us.” God doesn’t work that way. Since we have experienced God’s forgiveness, since we’ve seen His kindness and compassion, we are able to give out of what God has given us. But, it’s still not easy.
The difficulty is that some people do such despicable things that we’d rather see them rot in Hell. (I’m not Southern. Just “Bless my heart” and continue reading). When people treat us unfairly, we want the truth to come out. We want justice to be served. But, wrath and ultimate justice are in God’s hands – only.
We feel betrayed. We feel upset. We feel dumb for trusting them. What do we do? We can’t just overlook it and go on. It eats at us. And, that’s why we need to forgive. Once it starts eating at us, we’re on the path to bitterness. The situation will continue to grow in our minds until we believe that the offender is so unreasonable that we couldn’t possibly reconcile with him, let alone forgive him.
This is where we need God. Many times I have read Ephesians 4:32 out loud to God, then told God “if you expect me to act like this, then You need to help me, because I don’t really feel like it right now.” Then, God punishes me for talking back to Him—No He Doesn’t! God helps me every time.
Who are you struggling with these days? Are you ready to forgive? Do you wish they’d get hit by a bus? Ask God to help you have compassion on them and to forgive. He will do it, if you are willing.