Instructions for Christian Living

Today’s Reading:  Ephesians 4:17-32

A couple weeks ago, my 18 year old told me he’d had a fight with his friend about a controversial issue.  He went on to explain their disagreement and share more details about his point of view.  I walked away from that conversation with mixed emotions.  On one hand, I felt good because his theology was in line with the Bible and I was thankful that he had the courage to stand up for it.  On the other hand, I was worried his delivery may have over shadowed his message.  See my 18 year old son is very outspoken about his convictions, but has very little patience for listening to different points of view.  Discussions about controversial topics, even those about which we generally agree, often turn heated at our house.

The New International Version translation of the Bible titles Ephesians 4:17-21, our scripture for today, as “Instructions for Christian Living”.  Verses 29-32 made me think of Freddy and his loud mouth.  Unfortunately I also found them deeply convicting.  Let’s take a closer look.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (Ephesians 4:29).

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice (Ephesians 4:31).

Yikes.  While I don’t struggle all that much with gossip, I know what comes out of my mouth isn’t always aimed at building others up.  I have room to improve here.  But the next part is even harder.  Verse 31 goes deeper by instructing us to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice.  This isn’t just about what we say, it includes what we do and what we think/feel.  Controlling how we outwardly react to a situation is hard enough, but controlling how we feel in the heat of battle can seem almost impossible sometimes.

I definitely don’t have everything figured out, but what I have learned is that treating someone with kindness helps to diffuse bitterness, rage and anger.  When I feel wronged by someone, my natural reaction is to try and avoid contact with them.  But you know what I’ve found?  If I treat them with kindness rather than saying hurtful things or avoiding them, harboring anger and bitterness becomes much harder.  True kindness and compassion towards others helps to right a lot of wrongs.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).