Be angry [by all means] but do not sin, do not let the sun go down while you are still shaking with rage. Give no place at all to the devil. The one who stole must now steal no more, and should henceforth work good things with his [own] hands in order to share with those in need. No corrupt or corrupting word should come from your mouth but only what is good for the housekeeping that needs to be done, so that grace may be bestowed upon those listening within earshot. And do not cause sorrow to the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were stamped [and thus approved] for the day of full redemption. 
     Let all bitterness [of nursed regrets], all anger [of explosive frustration], all shouting [to even flag the injustice done to you] and all slander, be removed far from you with all of its disgusting evil. And to one another be kind and pleasant, tender-hearted, full of and ready to show pity, forgiving one another as God in Christ has indeed forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:26-32/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne

New direction

A new direction. PICTURE: HelloI'mNik/Unsplash

 

"A new ethic is to prevail. It should characterise one’s entire life in every aspect. The mercy of God which has been poured out upon them is to be poured out in merciful lives. This is indeed the way of life of those who have been restored in the image of God."

Against the backdrop of the Ephesian city uproar, Paul now calls upon his readers to “put on” the new man, fashioned by God’s revelation in Christ, and to therefore “put off” all that pertains to the former darkened presumptive way of life. But this “putting off” is not merely “in the mind”. It is not a “putting off” that requires one to passively respond to all things as if being angry is an emotion that is “of the devil”.

It is true that anger is often associated with “disgusting evil” as Paul notes in verse 31. But the anger that is generated in our lives must be accompanied by remedial action – it is not for us to brood upon men’s evil and to nurse our own deep disappointments and resentments with our own failures and the failings of others, nor even of our neighbours who may be our antagonists – to do so is to ascribe authority to the devil and depart from the path laid out by the Spirit of God.

The thief must no longer see himself as a thief. How is he to “put off” the “old man”? His stewardship henceforth is to become known by the distribution of good things. The former thief is one who now gives away freely, who seeks out those in need, who contributes to their well-being.

The one previously known for rumour, slander and gossip, the one with a reputation for undermining good order among people by the publication of sceptical innuendo, must henceforth confine himself to what is appropriate for accomplishing much needed work among the Body of Christ, building up those with whom we are placed on closest terms. Indeed, as those who communicate with each other, we have a God-given task to work together to add to the works of the Lord in our midst.

The conversation among those addressed is a responsibility conferred upon the entire body; it is to be pure and constructive, edifying for all who may come to hear of it.

To indulge in sinful conversation – talk that is corrupt and corrupting – is not only to fail to edify “those nearby, within earshot”. It is to violate and to challenge the integrity of the Lord Jesus and His righteousness for which He has been approved on our account. It is to resist and fight against God Himself (Isaiah 63:10). It is to grievously wound the Spirit of God, the spirit of holy, restored, wholesome, whole-hearted human lives. It is to deny our identity.

Paul assumes that there has been a complete departure from unrighteousness; a leaving behind of all bitterness, anger and wrangling, along with all denigrating talk. Paul does not say: “Get beyond your former life. Move on.” He assumes it is already behind and should be left there.

A new ethic is to prevail. It should characterise one’s entire life in every aspect. The mercy of God which has been poured out upon them is to be poured out in merciful lives. This is indeed the way of life of those who have been restored in the image of God.

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy!