25 Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the devil an opportunity. 28 Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. 29 No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by him for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. — Ephesians 4:25-32
by Jan Howell
Belief is a defining characteristic of an obedient Christian. We are to purposefully choose to believe God’s Word, allowing it to wash over our hearts, mind, and spirit, with a goal of it transforming our lives. Put another way, allowing unbelief to define our lives is in direct defiance of God’s Word. If we take this requirement of the Christian life seriously, Ephesians 4:25-32 can be seriously challenging. This passage is chock full of admonitions to behave in ways that are not aligned with our culture.
First, it is a tall order to ensure that all our words are useful to instruct, guide, and encourage others, and to never speak an idle, harsh, or inappropriate word. Additionally, to intentionally put off negative emotions such as bitterness or anger takes focus and concentration. Praying for others who have wronged us is not a one-time practice, and forgiveness requires continued decision making to remove resentment for wrongs done to us.
Being kind is also not characteristic of our culture these days—many people look out for themselves. As a result, it’s imperative to seek God’s Spirit before thinking or acting too quickly and inadvertently failing to consider others.
On top of all these requirements, there is the requirement that we as Christians be honest with ourselves and others. While I would like to think this is true of me, I’ve learned to pray that God would reveal Himself to me about areas of my life that are hidden even to myself. It’s hard to have an attitude of truthfulness when I’m not willing to be open before Him. It is my hope that He will allow me to see the weight of His glory in my life in a way that will allow me to grow.
Barnabas was someone who truly believed and followed God in his day and time. He was an ordinary guy who encouraged others, vouched for Paul, traveled with John Mark, and went to bat for those in adversarial positions within the church. Thank God for an Encourager with strong faith who was tender-hearted and kind, edifying to those around him, and committed to the truth revealed to him by God’s Spirit.
If you are honest with yourself, are you always edifying others with every word, as this passage instructs? Are you completely honest with yourself and others at all times, or does a lack of integrity sometimes become evident? Do you continually forgive, letting go of all bitterness and anger toward others, or is that sometimes a struggle? If you were asked if you truly believe God’s Word in this passage, would you be able to meet every requirement here? Do you know people like Barnabas who will come beside you and encourage you by their modeling and sharing God’s Spirit?
- Is there an encourager in your life who allows you to sense what God’s Spirit is trying to reveal to you?
- Do you have people who model these characteristics whom you can view as examples in learning to take on these traits?
- Are you learning to believe in and coming to greater alignment with God’s Word? If not, why not?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.