31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.
Here are listed contrasting attitudes within the individual believer and the church, one which grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit inside of us and one which glorifies Christ.
If you harbor bitterness in your heart you are not feeding the new man spoken of earlier. We have reasons to be bitter, bitter against others and bitter against ourselves. There is a seething current of discontent and regret that leads to rage and depression over what we feel that others have done to our lives and over the regrets we have over how we have lived our lives and what we have done to others.
Bitterness is often the byproduct of envy. It can also be the constantly dredging up of sins we have committed for which we’ve already been forgiven or the sins of others which, to our hurt, we have refused to forgive.
A pastor named Peter Ruckman once said that much mental illness is a consequence of refusing to forgive others and refusing to be forgiven by them, or worse, refusing to experience God’s forgiveness. God wants to move you forward, toward His plan for your life and to your life with Him in eternity. You want to wallow in your misery because it is yours and usually yours alone.
Luke 9:62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
The key to revival in your life is not looking back to some, “glorious time,” when you were saved or had a close walk with God. It is looking forward to the blessings that God wishes you to have that you can have with Him right now, your present, and your future. That emotional mudhole of bitterness you are writhing in is from something that is gone from you forever, if you are saved and trusting in Him; your past.
Husbands are told particularly not to be bitter against their wives.
Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
There are many sermons to be preached on that but let me just say that the Christian marriage is supposed to reflect Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church. What a woeful state we would be in if our espoused felt bitterness for our not living up to His expectations.
Set your expectations in reality. Both man and woman are sinners saved by God’s grace, imperfect people, but if both have Christ as the center of their lives then they both seek to please the same person every day praying together and reading His Bible and through His words there will be little grounds for bitterness.
We’ve talked about wrath and anger already back in verse 26. Your abiding rage and your hot temper are not pleasing to God. Repent, confess your sin, and let the Holy Spirit move you forward.
Clamour is not used anywhere else in the Bible and at the time the King James Bible was translated it meant to resist with words and also carryied the meaning of to cry out and even shriek. In this context it could be taken as the expression of anger and wrath that so many of us hot-tempered people have revealed, a screaming fit whenever one is angry. I read a wonderful testimonial for a parent from their adult child recently in that the young woman praised her late father’s memory as in her entire life she had never heard him raise his voice in anger at her. What testimony for a father and what an indictment of we hot-tempered screaming-in-anger louts.
I, for one, am deeply ashamed for screaming at my children.
Evil is often defined in the Bible as malicious intent, malice, or violent thoughts and deeds.
Genesis 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
Sometimes it is just plain trouble.
Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Examples of every day evil speaking are, “look at how much weight she’s put on,” or, “I bet since he’s unemployed now he really feels bad that his wife is carrying the load,” or, “I wonder what she did to make him leave her with the kids,” or, “I wonder why he’s still single?” You say, I don’t think these things are malicious. Sure they are. You know they aren’t said out of genuine concern but out of a prating mouth full of mischief and malice based on your own prejudices and personal convictions. You might as well admit it, you delight in evil speaking. Now, when you add bitterness, wrath, anger, and clamour to the mix with malice you can see what poisons an assembly of believers.
All of the negative things in verse 31 are things the Christian needs to pray to have God remove from his or her heart. There is no room in the Christian walk for these things. They are of the natural man. You were not taught them by Christ. All of them play right into Satan’s hatred of you.
But, we are taught by Christ to be kind to each other. Jesus said that this is one way that His disciples will be known.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Paul told us;
Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
1Corinthians 13, the chapter on Christian charity, which is the love that Christians should have for each other, tells us the character of that love.
1 ¶ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor [our modern definition of charity], and though I give my body to be burned [martyrdom], and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 ¶ Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly [this removes the wrong expressions of love], seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 ¶ Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
The sign of a mature group of believers is how they treat each other. You macho guys who are not tenderhearted, quick to forgive others the wrongs you feel they’ve done to you, are not walking in the will of God. We’re not talking about some movie idea or historical idea of forgiveness. We aren’t worried presently in this context in America about the enemy who wiped out our village, killed our parents, or brutally invaded our nation. We aren’t talking here about your thoughts regarding a stranger who committed a crime against you, the government, or a local business run by a jerk. Those thoughts stir us up but don’t address what we experience daily. We’re talking about the little slights, the thoughtless words and selfish deeds of others in the local church.
We need to forgive each other. Why? Because God forgave us far worse than anything we can imagine the person in the pew in front or behind us of committing against us.