Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear... Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
- Ephesians 4:28-29, 31-32
When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians it wasn't a detached missive or a rote Q&A response... no, Paul had spent 3 years with the people of this bustling town across the Aegean Sea from Greece in what is now modern-day Turkey. As one of his prison letters, this dispatch was sent to encourage the believers in their Christian maturity. Knowing this, really puts a twist on the concise list of do's and don'ts found in this particular section of passage. Allow me to enumerate:
Let [these things] be put away from you...
- ALL bitterness
- clamor (i.e. outcry)
- malice (i.e. wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws)
- forgiving (as God in Christ did for you)
I know, from various New Testament evidences, that similar challenges faced our 1st Century brothers and sisters as those we face today. We live in a bustling, me-centric, often times rude world. Whether deliberate or un-intentional, we are hard-pressed to get through a day or week without encountering (or ourselves accidentally being) rude. How are we meant to respond to this?
As if on cue for the article God intended me to share this topic, I found myself, this past week, caught up in the middle of one of the rudest encounters I think I have ever experienced. It has been a heart-wrenching reminder of the kind of brokenness, even in the body of Christ, which has no easy fix.
What was worse is, in the aftermath, I found myself growing irritable and complaining over trivial things. Tension was beginning to mount in my shoulders and neck and migraines were even sneaking on. Why was this getting to me so badly??
Pouring over Ephesians 4 today, my spirit became downcast in remembrance, 'If only this person could read and absorb these truths... to be transformed to the glory of Christ...' I felt the ache grow, the tension build and then... I saw, as in a mirror, Truth....
Yes, this rude person needed these truths... but so did I. I had allowed the conflict to seed bitterness and anger, to build an outcry (clamor) and who knows what these patterns would have grown to become... except God's Word put it all in check. Yes, what happened was wrong, but I could choose to PUT AWAY from me all of the negative attributes which were threatening my peace in Jesus. I can BE kind, tenderhearted and, especially, FORGIVING.
I can't control how others are handling things, but I can control how I do.
Plain and simple.
I don't know if I am due to be subject of more of these rude confrontations with this person... it is possible I will. Yet, I CAN choose to put away any feeling or response which does not glorify God and, instead, put on the robes of the One who saves me daily. I can pray obedience and peace, just maybe, might reflect the Light of Christ to fix what is broken and wash away the rude in this other person. I can also exit each of these encounters with strength and hope as I put away the negative reactions and BEcome an embodiment of Christ.
This section of Ephesians 4 opens with this:
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
and give no opportunity to the devil.
We aren't meant to stay angry. Anger and frustration with a situation will, inevitably, flare up to become a destructive ogre. But we are to give it ALL to God lest we give the enemy opportunity to march into our hearts. I don't know about you, but as for me, I will declare the Name of Jesus and march that enemy right back out! Nothing in this life is worth growing in bitterness or wrath or anger or.... anything unbecoming of the Precious Name of Christ. I choose Kindness in Spite of Rudeness, that my God might be glorified as a result!
This "Love is..." devo is inspired by my new Bible Study out this month where we take a unique approach of correlating the whole of scripture to the tenets of 1 Corinthians 13. Have you been longing to learn how to love as Christ calls us to? You may want to check this study out. You can find a FREE link on my Instagram profile OR you can subscribe to my newsletter (it is FREE) and receive February's issue with the "Love Is" Bible study and more. Details are below:
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