Ephesians 4:31, 32
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:…
I. THE NEGATIVE DUTIES. "Let all bitterness, etc., be put away from you." Various influences tempt us to the indulgence of these dark passions.
1. Natural disposition. Some men appear to be born with an acrid and mordant temper, as some plants secrete irritant poisons.
2. Provocation. Anger rouses anger as fire kindles fire. The reference to forgiveness shows that St. Paul is especially condemning outbursts of wrath against people who have treated us maliciously.
3. Evil example. "Clamor and railing" are public offences. When many men concur in pouring wrath on a selected victim it is difficult to stand aside from the current of abuse and recognize the unholiness of it. The admonition may be applied
(1) to public life, that politics may be freed from the degradation of personal spite;
(2) to affairs of religion in condemnation of the odium theologicum, and also of the odium antitheologicum, - why should we hate a man because his opinion is not ours?
(3) to social life, since it is better to suffer an injury unavenged than to add a second injury in return.
II. THE POSITIVE DUTIES. Christianity is not satisfied with passive meekness. We must not only turn the cheek to the smiter, we must love our enemies - a duty of positive feeling and action.
1. General kindness. This would destroy the selfishness that is at the root of all revengeful feelings. He who has injured us is our brother. The ties of our common brotherhood that urge us to love him should be stronger than the provocations of his unkindness that would make us bitter against him.
2. Tenderheartedness. This should make us pity the offender for the shame and guilt he has brought upon himself, and long for reconciliation with him.
3. Forgiveness. The final step for the healing of positive injury is the most necessary, for without it we can have no Divine forgiveness, nor can we truly love our enemy.
III. THE GRAND MOTIVE. "Even as God also in Christ forgave you." As we must forgive others before God will forgive us, so when he has forgiven us a stronger reason is added to urge us to forgive those who may in future injure us.
1. The Divine forgiveness is the reason for our forgiveness and kindness to others. The parable of the unforgiving servant reveals the gross inconsistency of an unforgiving spirit in Christian men and women (Matthew 18:23-35). How can we who simply exist because God has forgiven us deny forgiveness to our brethren? If God who is infinitely above us has condescended to forgiveness, shall we stand more strictly on our petty rights? If God has forgiven us our innumerable, great, and awful sins against him, can we be backward in pardoning the much fewer and slighter sins of our fellow-men against us? Forgiven the debt often thousand talents, how have we the face to exact the debt of a hundred pence?
2. The Divine forgiveness is the pattern of our forgiveness. It is
(1) at the greatest cost - "in Christ," through the gift of God's own Son;
(2) covering all sins, the worst and blackest without exception;
(3) perfect, full, and ungrudging - remembering our sins no more, removing them from us as far as the east is from the west, burying them in the sea;
(4) cheerful and generous - putting the ring and best robe on the penitent;
(5) free, not earned by sacrifice, penance, or good works. Such should be on our forgiveness of one another. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: