In Ephesians 4:30-32, the Apostle Paul writes this,
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
As we look at these verses I am struck with the thought of how much of our service to God and our dedication to the Lord is affected and impacted in our relations with other people. Each Christian believer is called to grow stronger in his vertical relationship to God, by loving God above all things, and we are also called to love and serve our neighbor. This passage dovetails these two aspects of our sanctification by speaking of our love for God as we love others.
As is typical in Paul’s writings, he sets forth what we must do to put off something and what to put on in order to fulfill our duty toward God and our neighbor. He tells us in this passage to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. As he strings together these examples of sins toward our neighbor, we should analyze them and ask ourselves the questions: what do these vices have in common and are there more basic motivations which undergird these wrong ways of dealing with other people? There does seem to be a common thread underlying many of these vices which is the cause of our anger, envy, and jealousy. The old man and our sinful nature gravitates toward being angry and jealous of other people’s gifts and stations in life. When we get into this mindset we are not thankful for the good blessings that God has given to us. Instead we moan and complain in our minds and sometimes in our speech about how other people have it easy while we struggle along with disappointments, heartaches, and difficulties. We must strike at the foundation of this dissatisfaction and envy and appreciate God’s gifts to us and the gifts He has given to others.
The Apostle Paul also tells us what we need to put on in loving others. He gives us the exhortation to be kind to another, tenderhearted, and forgiving others even as Christ has forgiven us of our sins. We need to be realistic in our relations with others that we both sin against others and are sinned against by other people. Since both ends of the spectrum are true in our relations with others, we need to put the Gospel into practice by extending mercy to others in the same way that Christ has mercy on us. We will grow in our relationship with God as we apply what happened at the Cross of Christ to our social relationships in treating others with justice, mercy, and truth. In living out the implications of the Gospel toward others, we will welcome and not grieve the Holy Spirit by whom we are kept safe until the day of redemption.
Pastor Cedric R. Benner