The body is most healthy when all of its members work together for each other. When the organs begin to become dysfunctional, the body ceases to operate as it should and the result is decay and ruin. This is true for the physical body, and as Paul has been arguing in Ephesians, this is true for the body of the church. No church can exist and thrive if members are dysfunctional and divisive.
As Paul continues the practical application of unity in the body of Christ, he brings out a few more instructive commands of how a transformed Christian will act. Christians will “put away” those things that will cause disunity in the church and in their relationships. To “put away” means to get rid of or throw out. It is the idea that these things will not be found in the life of a Christian.
When Christians are wronged, they will respond in new ways. In times past, if someone spoke in demeaning ways, or committed hurtful actions, without the transforming work of God’s grace in their hearts and minds, the natural response would be bitterness, wrath, evil actions and evil speaking. Now, having been transformed, the bent of the Christian heart should not be the same. There should be a new and better way.
Christians respond with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness to the ones that say the wrong things and do the wrong things. True Christians should not be vengeful and bitter. True Christians should not be caustic and attacking. True Christians seek to “live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) This is why Paul admonishes the Ephesians to seek to live in ways of love and compassion.
The very nature of Christ in us will be to respond to wrongdoing as Christ did. In 1 Peter 2:23 we see that for Jesus, “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” How could we live any differently? How can anyone claim to be a Christian yet fail to put away the wickedness and vile responses of the sinful human heart.
Too many Christians and those who claim to be Christians act like a wounded dog when someone attacks them. Instead of trusting it to God, they seek to bite back and use every ounce of their bitter strength to even the score. May we truly become like Jesus and learn to love even those who count themselves our enemies. May we find ourselves ready to forgive, not hasty to speak evil, and may God help us as we seek to obey His desires for us. This “love instead of war” is the key to right relationships and is necessary for the health of the church body as well.
Reflect: What is the measure of forgiveness that Paul uses in Ephesians 4:32? What does that tell us about the extent of our love and forgiveness for others?