Jump Start # 2155
Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice”
Our verse today is filled with six destructive attitudes that can ruin us. They are choices and responses to someone who has hurt us. There are reasons a person is bitter. Most do not go to bed in a great mood and wake up bitter. They are bitter because of something that has happened. They have been hurt. Something unfair has happened to them.
What is interesting about these six evil spirits is that they are connected to each other. Bitterness is how we feel on the inside. It leads to anger which spills over into wrath, clamor, slander and malice. Those are outward expressions of bitterness and anger. We often see the wrath, clamor, slander and malice. We wonder why people are acting that way. The answer is within our verse. They are angry and they are bitter. It is extremely rare to have one without a combination of these other six following. You don’t find someone that is bitter and that’s all. They may be bitter, but anger, wrath and slander are near by.
What is even more interesting is that the apostle tells the Christians to put these six spirits away from them. This tells us, that some of them may have felt this way. They were Christians, yet they were bitter. Bitter is not a place where people long to be. A person doesn’t say as they leave the house, “I sure hope to come home bitter today.” Something had happened to these Christians. They weren’t happy. Just before this Paul said:
Laying aside falsehood, speak truth (25)
Be angry and yet do not let the sun go down on your anger (26)
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth (29)
Our verse, put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice
All of these verses together sure makes one think that they were upset with someone or each other. Our fellowship is very similar to our physical family. Sometimes no house is large enough for fighting kids. We can bump each other, tease too much, hurt feelings and sometimes not even realize it. We can say things that hurts others, but we don’t mean to. We can exclude others without meaning to. This can lead to being bitter, saying things and being upset.
It’s hard to be around someone that you feel bitter about. You just as soon go to your room and close the door. They have hurt you and they ought to come and apologize. But they don’t. Some won’t because they just don’t apologize. Some do not understand that you were hurt by what they said. While we are feeling left out, hurt and wounded, they seem to go on their way acting as if nothing has ever happened. That can make us even more bitter. The more we think about it and the more we dwell upon it, the worse we feel.
Among brethren, what happens is that one quits going. He doesn’t feel like going because he is upset with others. He is waiting for some to make it right, but they are not. His bitterness has fueled his anger and now he has moved into retaliation. He talks negatively about others. He is slandering and he doesn’t even realize it. We don’t use the word clamor much in our daily conversation. The idea is like a child with pots and pans. You know what will happen. The child starts banging them together. He’s making a lot of noise. That’s clamor. It’s stirring things up. It’s making a lot of noise. It’s trying to get others to be upset as well. Bitterness has a way of collecting on others. Put one bitter person in a room and by the end of class, or worship, you may have a dozen bitter people.
The upset person rehearses in his mind over and over and over what should have been done and what should have been said. And, it’s not being done. So worse and worse he feels. His anger is giving the devil an open invitation into his heart. Unwholesome words follow. He is spiraling downward and unless he pulls up quickly, there is going to be a mighty crash.
But in the midst of all these unhealthy spirits is found God’s solution. It begins in this verse and carries over to the next verse. Here it says, let them all “be put away from you.” Stop being bitter. Stop the banging around with clamor. Stop the slander. Stop being angry. Stop it. You are in the driver’s seat of your attitude, spirit and heart. Don’t allow others to put you in a place that’s sinful and destructive. “But, you don’t know what they did?” It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t allow you to feel nor act this way. Remember what they did to Jesus.
Then, so unnatural, yet so spiritual, Paul ends the chapter by adding, “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Let it go! A person cannot be bitter and kind at the same time towards the same person. Why forgive? They hurt me. They were in the wrong. They need to make it right. Forgive, because we have hurt God. Forgive because if we don’t, we will be hurting God right now by remaining bitter.
Every time I write, or preach on this, there is always one person who will ask, “I don’t have to forgive unless they say they are sorry first. If they don’t repent, then I don’t have to forgive.” You don’t find that in these verses. The way a person says it seems like they really hope a person doesn’t apologize. They want to remain bitter, angry and full of wrath towards them. They feel they are justified because the person never said they were sorry. And, the way some present it, it’s a sad day when the person finally apologizes because now they can no longer be bitter towards them. You won’t find that thought in these verses. Paul didn’t say remove bitterness and these other ugly sisters that tag along with bitterness ONLY if a person first apologizes. No apology then you have a green light and Heaven’s permission to be bitter, angry and clamorous. Not here. Not anywhere in the Bible.
No. The apostle tells us to put them away. Put them all away. You are moving to do this to yourself. What has happened has put you into dangerous waters. These attitudes are going to sink you. Sin is happening and you do not even see it. Put them away and then be kind, tender and forgiving to the very people that hurt you. This is the steps of Jesus.
Nothing is more Christ-like than forgiveness. Anyone can be generous. Anyone can open a door for someone. But to forgive when you are hurting takes grace and a mountain of faith in Jesus. We need this, because we tend to hurt one another. We need this because without this we are destined to splinter, split and divide. We need this because this is being like Jesus. Sitting in a pew on a Sunday is easy. Forgiving someone who has hurt us is where our faith truly shines.
Bless be the tie that binds us…