August 20 - Ephesians 4:28-32

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Sometimes I want to ask “exactly what do you mean by unwholesome talk”? Then it occurs to me that if I have to ask, what I wanted to say was probably not … wholesome.

My elementary school years were spent in a very small town. There were only 23 children in my class and by far a greater number of boys than there were girls. Now I showed up in second grade and believe it or not, cliques had long since been established. Well, I should say … clique. There really was only one and I was certainly not part of it. There were four or five girls who clustered together and using standard bullying tactics, eliminated everyone else from their group. Birthday parties were difficult because their parents insisted on inviting everyone from the class. I tried one of them and that was it. Every day they said terrible things to me; my saving grace was music class. In there, life made sense. The teacher accepted me and saw my musical potential. She gave me haven when everything else was a horrible place to be. Every bit of my love for music and desire to be a musician came about because Mrs. Hill taught me theory in roundabout ways after class.

Every day after school I would go home and fall apart. The girls had generally done or said something to remind me that I was not as important as they were or as special as they were or as good at sports as they were or … on and on.  And every evening my mother would spend time reminding me that I was unique and special and that I had gifts no one else could ever have.

As important as mom’s words were to me in giving me back my self-esteem each evening, even more important was the lesson she taught with regards to my own behavior. Never once did she allow me to say terrible things about the girls who had spent an entire day ignoring or bullying me. I could tell her what had happened, but when I began to call them names or get personal about their behavior, she stopped me. I wasn’t allowed to be like them. I wasn’t going to learn to be a bully, I was going to learn how to manage their behavior and walk away with my head held high.

I spent a lot of my early years learning how to forgive. It still breaks my heart that my childhood self had to ever put up with their vitriol, but it doesn't hurt me. I forgave them long ago, and in fact probably felt more sorry for them than anything.

I don’t know how to get rid of bitterness and anger, rage and malice. Sometimes when those things get built up in us it is nearly impossible to let them go, but those are things that will separate us from God.

Paul calls us to be kind and compassionate to each other – forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave us. It seems that God might have a bigger grudge against us than we would against anyone else, but it simply doesn't exist because of Jesus Christ. We could probably find a way to release our anger and bitterness and learn to forgive. Kindness and compassion will never come from negative emotions.