“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32). A specific aspect of “laying aside the old corrupted self” (Eph 4:22), is to literally “put away” bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.
These actions, these sins really, are to be in your past. We are to lay them aside. Of course, this is easier said than done. But “done” is exactly what Christ is calling us to do.
Look at this similar admonition, “To live the rest of your lives no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the deeds of the flesh, having pursued a course of sensuality, lust, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (I Pet 4:2-3). “The time already past is sufficient” means these activities should be in your past; in your rear view mirror. There was plenty of time in your past to pursue this lifestyle; there should be no time in your present for this.
Now, it is well and good to say this about relegating bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice, etc to our past, but where do we get the power, the energy, the want-to, to put these in our past?
The power to put these sins aside, is found in what is replacing our old self; your new self. Your new self “which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24). As we let more of our “new self”, our Spirit-filled Christ-energized self, emerge and rule, our old self will lose its power. And the sins reminiscent of our old self will be replaced with kindness, tender hearts, and forgiveness.
This is what the new self looks like. These three – kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness – are such great witnesses of God’s power in our lives. And one reason they are such clear pictures of God’s power in our lives is because they are so rare.
The world looks at these as weak. But they actually require great power to put into practice. To be kind instead of lash out; to be tender instead of hard and cold, to be forgiving instead of holding a grudge or using your hurt as a power play over someone who has harmed you.
Yes, these beautiful attributes are rare in the world. But they should be common among us. Why, because we are the children of God. As those who literally carry the “seed of God” (I Jn 3:9) inside us as His children, we should practice God’s moral attributes. What is said of God that He is kind, tender-hearted, and – as we learn in our passage – full of forgiveness, should be said of us.
All of these righteous actions come down to us imitating our heavenly Father. “Forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). We extend grace to others in any way possible, because God has extended His grace to us through Jesus Christ our Lord.