Forgiving as You Have Been Forgiven
25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil. 28Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Paul makes much of our changed status as Christians. We are no longer slaves to the old nature that wants to sin and live in corruption. The new life looks different because Christians are different. This new life is marked by three traits (according to this passage – there are more.)
- Speak the truth. This sounds easy – but it is not. Interestingly, Paul phrases this in such a way as to point out that if we lie to a fellow believer we are actually lying to ourselves for we are all one in Christ. Being truthful can be tough but it is critical. Satan is the father of lies –all lies. (See John 8:42-47) Even those “white lies” are wrong. That may mean you need to actually think before you speak in order to avoid lying. Once again – intentional living!
- Anger is crushed. The “anger response” is so very easy. It means we just go ahead and give vent to those feelings of frustration and rage. Our words damage those around us and can cause pain. Allowing those pains to happen, and then to fester only leads to division within the Body and that brings only destruction. If the angry words or actions happen, deal with it immediately. Allow no room for festering.
- Honesty is a must. Inside of the Body of Christ, no dishonesty can be allowed. It too will rot us from the inside out. That means we work rather than steal. We give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage.
Here in four short verses we find enough to work on for a lifetime! Putting on the “new self” that has been created by the Holy Spirit requires that we pay attention to how we live. Just imagine the reputation Christians and even Christianity would have if all heeded these words. Evangelism would be a breeze!
“Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths ...” I don’t know about you, but those are incriminating words for me. Examine the content of your speech for just one day and then decide how you are doing with that one. Corrupt talk includes coarse language (you know – emergency words), gossip, and anything that doesn’t build others up. How’s your percentage rate? While some days are worse than others, this can be a struggle. This goes back to intentional living – again.
Now, on to something that is more intriguing. “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” As parents, the first time we see our child imitate an action or repeat a phrase we say, it can bring us up short. Listening to my daughter play before she was even a year old was a real eye opener for me. She kept saying “icy”. She would repeat it over and over again. I could not figure out why she would be saying that. Then my mom pointed out “you say that all the time. Oh, I see.” My daughter had become an imitator of the parent because she already knew me well and spent time watching and listening. “Oh, I see.”
As God’s children, we are to imitate Him. That means we are to be so closely connected to Him that we think as He thinks and behave as He behaves. When the world sees us, they see Christ because we imitate Him. We look like Him. This concept goes right back to the words we examined yesterday. As well as guarding our mouth, we also refrain from harboring anger, we live honestly, and we speak the truth in love. These actions imitate the Father and bring glory to Him.
The most important way we imitate the Father is by forgiving as He forgives. This is so important that Jesus included it into what we now call The Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Will we fail at this imitation? Yes, most certainly. That’s why Jesus had to die for our sin. But – we can make it our intentional choice to work on it, allowing the Holy Spirit to grow us up and shine through us. Just as the impressionists on TV had to practice and practice to refine their skills, so we too must constantly and intentionally practice. When we imitate the Father, He receives glory.