Things to Put Away
“Let all bitterness and wrath… be put away from you.” (Ephesians 4:31)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:31
In this verse, Paul continues to detail the old attitudes, practices and behaviours that Christians have to put away from them. This is part of the journey towards Christlikeness that every Christian has to walk.
The old practices mentioned here are a cluster of negative, destructive attitudes and behaviours that can tear us and other people apart. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you,” Paul writes (Ephesians 4:31). He has already dealt with anger (v. 26, 27); bitterness and wrath are its close relatives.
A bitter spirit or attitude is one where we cherish resentful, unforgiving, hurtful feelings towards other people, often for wrongs done or perceived to have been done towards us. Wrath is intensified and often uncontrolled anger. “Clamour” has to do with loud and loose speaking about others, while “slander” is an intentional misrepresentation of them. “Malice” is evil intent – it is a disposition of heart that is set on hurting or causing others to suffer.
We hardly need to mention how destructive such things are – and how widespread they are in our society. When one looks at the explosion of divorce and family violence in our culture – to name just two of its ills – we are confronted with the prevalence of uncontrolled ill-will towards other people, often those naturally closest and dearest to us, that ends up in violence, separation and even murder.
It is helpful to realise that these various behaviours are the product of feelings that have gone wrong. Desires, passions, and feelings lie at the root of wrath, bitterness, slander and the like. That desires and feelings such as these are wrong obvious. They are the effects of sin which have made self-love, pride and self-fulfilment the controlling factors of life.
James alludes to this when he writes, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1, 2). Note the emphasised (italicised) words. All are connected with feelings, and their terrible fruits are the result of feelings not being fulfilled to our satisfaction.
Once again, Paul doesn’t stop at naming these ungodly qualities, but insists they have to be “put away.” This is something we are to do – God does not do it for us. But how are we to do this – to deal with the deep-seated feelings that give rise to wrath and anger and so on? This is a subject of such immense importance that, God-willing, we will explore it in greater depth with the help of Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart shortly.
In brief, it is not by confronting these feelings directly, but by replacing them with godly feelings by the grace of God, feelings that are the fruit of the Spirit flowing out of a life of constant fellowship with God in Christ.
- Are you conscious of feelings of bitterness and malice at times?
- What are such feelings connected with? Where do they come from?
– Andrew Young