Choosing Forgiveness 2

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30-32 ESV).

As we previously saw in Philemon 1-3, choosing to forgive is based upon God’s prior choice to forgive us unto salvation. It is only with this prior foundation, that the believer in Christ can build a life characterized by forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a conscious choice. It involves not only what we choose “not to do” in response to our hurts from other people, but also what we “are to do.” Ephesians 4:31-32 encapsulates these two categories of choices.

What choices are believers not to make in response to people’s hurtful behavior? Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

The prevailing adjective “all” is applied to each noun Paul uses in this verse. It modifies each behavior that believers are not to demonstrate but rather put away. All means complete or the whole. No remnant of these six unholy behaviors and attitudes can remain in the believer’s life. The list is as follows:

Bitterness. Bitterness is an intense resentment of someone or something. It is synonymous with hate and spite.

Wrath. Wrath is an intense anger which expresses itself by violent outbursts. It is a sudden attack of fury and rage.

Anger. Anger is a passionate rage which eventually boils to the surface. In contrast to the suddenness of wrath, anger contains awareness and deliberation.

Clamor. Clamor is a shouting, weeping, a loud scream or shout. It is a verbal brawl. It is the teenager screaming at her parents, “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” Or it may be the parent who yells, “I wish you had never been born!”

Slander. Slander is speech intended to harm a person and his/her reputation. It is speech not intended to build a person up, but rather to tear down.

Malice. Malice is a feeling of hostility or a strong dislike. It is hateful feelings.

All these behaviors are to be put away from the follower of Christ. To be put away means to disassociate and separate oneself. It is an act only the Holy Spirit can truly accomplish along with the submissive and obedient spirit of the believer.

Failure to do so results in grieving the Holy Spirit (4:30). It also grieves the church and will result in deep pain for the individual who fails to relinquish these actions and attitudes of an unforgiving heart.