“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
When considering the words of Ephesians 4:31 our stomachs should roll. There is no pleasantness associated with bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, or malice. Just try being happy or smiling when you say any of these words. You can’t. Look at the word ‘bitterness’. When God instituted Passover (Exodus 12), the Israelites were told to eat the roasted lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Why “bitter”? Bitter herbs were to remind the Israelites of the bitterness of their slavery in Egypt. Bitter – no joy. (Ruth 1:20)
When someone has hurt you or someone you love, either directly or indirectly, you can allow that pain to grow to a point of bitterness. Unchecked, bitterness will grow to a place where you can no longer be in the same room with that person; or where the mere mentioning of their name can spark anger. No longer can you heed the admonitions found in Romans 12:9-21 (Let love be genuine, bless those who persecute you, etc.). The relationship with the other person is just bitterness, and so, evil. And that command to forgive -? Forget it! Unresolved bitterness will grow into hatred. This is not good. God is not pleased with this attitude.
Kind, tenderhearted, forgiveness… These words conjure up pleasant thoughts and feelings. Kindness is the ‘pepto-bismol’ to the soul. It can settle, calm and eliminate bitterness. Kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness cannot abide in the same heart as bitterness, anger, and hatred. When someone has sinned against you, you can choose whether to serve God and be kind or serve mammon and be bitter. Consider, truly consider the warning in 1 John 4.20-21: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”