ACT LIKE CHRISTIANS EPHESIANS 4:31-32
I would like for you to take your Bibles and turn to the fourth chapter of Ephesians and the 32nd verse.
Listen, as I read this verse to you.
*Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you*.
Before we look at this verse in detail, I want to set the background for which Paul issued this command.
Paul, in many of his letters, deals with belief before behavior, precepts before practice, and convictions before commitment.
Ephesians is no different.
The letter in the first three chapters deals with the identity of these readers of Paul.
They were Christians saved by God’s grace.
Formerly, they were dead in their trespasses and sins, followed the course of this world, followed the prince of the power of the air, sons of disobedience, lived for passions of the flesh, carried out desires of body and mind, and children of wrath.
But God changed all of this by His grace.
He made us alive together with Christ, raised us up and seated us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
We are no longer who we once were because of Christ.
Therefore, as Christians we should no longer act like we once did, but now in the way that God desires for us.
In other words, our actions are linked to our identity.
Remember, as a child, when you would fall down or get hurt or had something not go your way and your parents would make the remark, “There, there, you’re a big boy or girl.
Act like it.”
Princess Margaret, as a young girl, sits beside her mother, Queen Elizabeth, at the princess’s presentation to the British public.
She is called upon to walk to the microphone and say a few words to the gathered dignitaries.
As she prepares to stand, her mother leans over to her and says, “You are a princess.
Walk like one!”
Eighteen-year-old Chuck has gone through twelve of the toughest weeks of anyone’s life in Marine boot camp in coastal South Carolina.
During the last week they are forced to crawl under rolls of barbed wire with live machine gun ammunition blazing just inches over their heads.
He begins to sweat.
His hands dig into the red clay beneath him as panic sweeps his soul.
Just the, a friend crawls up beside him and says, “Get a hold of yourself, Chuck.
You’re a marine.
Act like one!”
So Paul in Ephesians switches from the first three chapters saying “You are a child of God.
Act like one!” Paul’s pattern here is not only to have us stop doing the evil behavior, but also to begin practicing godly behavior.
We are to replace lying with telling the truth (4:25).
We are to stop stealing and instead work hard and give to those in need (4:28).
We are to stop using unwholesome words and instead use words that build up and give grace (4:29).
So here, sinful anger is to be replaced with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness.
In verse 31, Paul gives a list of six vices that Christians are to put off like a landlord would an undesirable tenant.
Instead, we are to put on a spiritual wardrobe given us by the Spirit of God.
Let me just mention briefly the six vices in verse 31, then give you three virtues and the motivation for these virtues.
VICES TO PUT OFF – 31
*Bitterness *- is the bearing of a grudge against another, because of some wrong we believe they have committed against us or another.
It is a long-standing resentment, a spirit that refuses to be reconciled.
In other words, this attitude keeps scores of wrongs.
*Wrath *- refers to the explosive outbursts of anger which are common practice to those with “bad tempers” It derived from a word meaning “to boil.”
*Anger *– this word is synonymous with wrath, but differs in this respect.
Wrath is an emotional outburst that is spontaneous, while anger is less explosive, yet more settled attitude that lingers longer.
Often it is premeditated.
The purpose is to seek revenge.
*Clamor *- refers to loud, angry words, where people are screaming at each other.
It includes cursing and calling someone abusive names.
*Slander* - is that speech which demeans the other person.
It is destructive, not constructive, speech.
It is also speech which often falls short of the truth.
Slander is accompanied by falsehood, where we stretch the truth or only give enough information to tilt the verdict in our direction.
*Malice *- is resentment that has turned even more sour, so that we now bear ill will toward another to the degree that we wish to see them suffer.
It is the attitude which, when it conceives, actively seeks to bring harm to another.
It is added to cover any anger or hostility that we might justify or okay.
These things may characterize an unbeliever, but I am afraid that sometimes they characterize Christians.
A /Reader’s Digest /article (Oct., 2007) gave numerous examples of parents who watch their children’s sports activities and erupt in anger to the point of attacking other parents and even the children competing against their children!
One father beat another father to death after a youth hockey practice!
Another dad clubbed his daughter’s high school softball coach repeatedly in the head and body with an aluminum bat because the coach had suspended the girl for missing a game to attend the prom.
The article stated that three-fourths of parents who have attended a youth sporting event have witnessed other parents being verbally abusive.
One in seven have witnessed an actual physical altercation involving a parent!
In fact, I have witnessed this attitude in the life of believers.
Churches have split over angry people and Christian homes have been broken apart by angry people.
So Paul says there ought to be three virtues that should be true of Christians.
VIRTUES TO PUT ON – 32
Paul opens up this verse with a Greek word *be *which literally means “to become.”
The command demands an ongoing process.
It is the idea to abandon one mental condition and go in the opposite direction.
So what are we to become: kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving one another.
*Kind *– is the opposite of hard, harsh or bitter.
It is being good and courteous in looks, words and actions.
Paul says that love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4) and one of the fruit of the Spirit is kindness (Gal.
A kind person is not harsh or sharp with others.
He allows others room to offend or make mistakes without becoming offended and crawling all over them.
A kind person takes an interest in others and tries to understand what they are feeling by asking sensitive questions.
This describes the character of God.
In Luke 6:35, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and do good and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”
Paul in Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness is mean to lead you to repentance.”
Peter said, tasting God’s kindness should motivate us to put away vices and grow in our Christian walk.
The idea of kindness is to think as much about a neighbor’s affair as we do our own.
We are to be looking outwards rather than inwards.
Alexander Maclaren said, “Kindness makes a person attractive.
If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it.”
The 1992 Olympics are now history, but while they were in progress a few months back, we remembered the story of Henry Pearce of Australia, who was competing in the single scull rowing event at the 1928 Olympics.
He was leading when a duck and her string of ducklings came into view up ahead.
They were on a collision course and Pearce reckoned that his scull would cut the string in two and sink a few ducklings in the process, so he pulled in his oars.
When the ducks passed, Pearce again bent his back to the task.
There’s a happy ending to the story.
Usually, acts of sportsmanship result in defeat.
Remember Leo Durocher’s pronouncement, “Nice guys finish last”?
It happened a couple of years ago in the marathon tandem kayak racing event at the world championships in Copenhagen.
Danish paddlers were leading when their rudder was damaged in a portage.
British paddlers, who were in second place, stopped to help the Danes fix it.
The Danes went on to defeat the British by one second in an event that lasted nearly three hours.
But there’s a happy ending to this story too.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the British kayakers won what many people regard as the highest honor in sports.
They became the winner of the Pierre de Coubertin International Fair Play Trophy.
The trophy is named for the founder of the modern Olympic Games, and it has been awarded annually for the past 28 years to people in sports who have demonstrated nobility of spirit.