I probably don’t need to remind you first that as Paul is writing here, he is writing to a church, where these behaviors are beginning to surface. This is a church that has lost its passion for the gospel and has settled into a pseudo-legalism, where religion is about following rules, rather than being obedient to God in faith.
Paul’s list of evil interaction is as follows:
- Bitterness (acridity or poison) It’s not hard to imagine this person, as every word they speak is dripping with criticism. You can do nothing right about these people. Even if you do something right, you did it by accident.
- Anger (violent passion) – This is a person whose anger flares up quickly. I’ve seen this in board meetings, and it’s not pretty. Such people are toxic to the faith, and their brief flashes of anger hurt other Christians because this person has no self-control.
- Wrath (indignation) – This person wears their offense as a badge of honor. They are always offended, and even the slightest word can set them off, so you walk around them on eggshells, trying not to offend them again. They use their anger as a means to control others.
- Shouting (crying out, intimidating speech?) – This is the loud-talker, because they know if they talk loudly, they will intimidate others. They like to dominate their conversation and their point of view is the only one that matters.
- Slander (literally blasphemy) – This person has taken what little they know of the faith and use it to their own benefit. They are the kind of people who will tell you that if you give them money, God will bless you. They will salt their speech with just enough platitudes to encourage trust, but their “truth” is all about themselves.
- Malice (depravity, evil) – This is the dark-hearted individual, who for whatever reason (usually past trauma) works to undermine and destroy your growth as a believer.
And his list of favored interaction is:
- Kindness (graciousness) – There is no end of kindness with this person. They will be kind to you, even when you haven’t been kind to them. They are kindness without fail, and these are the ones that remind you what Jesus is like.
- Compassion (deep-seated kindness) – These seek out those in need, those in pain, and actively work to relieve it.
- Forgiveness (favor, pardon) – These are the ones who are never offended by you, accept you as you are, and love you because you are made in God’s image.
Paul’s remind to the church in Ephesus is to avoid the behaviors on the first list, and seeks the behaviors of the second. When you take Paul’s advice, you will find your church becoming a church people come to because the Spirit of God is there, where a person finds love and peace, and you will find a Church just as God intended.
May God bless you and your fellowship tomorrow!