Are you an angry person? Are you spiteful? Do you hold grudges, or say or do mean-spirited things to get back at people? If you belong to God, these are behaviors He wants you to stop.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. (Ephesians 4:31)
We all know what bitterness is. It is resentfulness about something, a not letting go of an injustice, real or perceived—a lack of genuine forgiveness. When someone wrongs us, it is sometimes difficult to forgive. If the offender is genuinely repentant and asks for forgiveness, it is easier. But frequently, the one who hurt us doesn’t ask to be forgiven; they may not even believe they did something wrong, even after being confronted. Or, the offense might be so great that it feels no amount of repentance on their part can account for the injustice done. Regardless of the circumstance, when we refuse to forgive, bitterness can build up in us, becoming a stumbling block in our relationship with God because we are to “forgiv[e]…one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Wrath is related to anger, but many people don’t know the difference. Anger is of a more sudden nature and shorter-lived; wrath is a long-term disposition. We “get angry,” but we “are wrathful.” God is wrathful toward sin because it keeps us from being everything He wants us to be and from being able to fully enjoy life in His presence. In us, however, both wrath and anger are typically directed towards people, and we are not to exhibit this kind of behavior.
So what should we do when we get angry? We should remember the admonitions “be angry and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26a) and “do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26b). Whatever we feel is too difficult for us to humanly handle we can bring to His throne in prayer, because if we submit ourselves before Him, confess our difficulty, and ask for His divine assistance, we will find that we can, indeed, “do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” (Philippians 4:13)
What about clamor? And what exactly is clamor? According to The King James Bible Page (online), clamor is “A great outcry; noise; exclamation; vociferation, made by a loud human voice continued or repeated, or by a multitude of voices. It often expresses complaint and urgent demand.” It brings to mind the demands of a mob or a riot situation, and it, too, is not for those who belong to God.
Evil-speaking is also something we, as followers of Christ, are not to do. It comes from the Greek “blasphemia” which means “to speak to harm and in general therefore…to bring into ill repute and so to slander, to defame (to harm the reputation of by libel or slander), speak evil of, to rail at (revile or scold in harsh, insolent, or abusive language and rail stresses an unrestrained berating), to speak calumny.” (P-R-E-C-E-P-T A-U-S-T-I-N, online site) An all-encompassing word, it reflects much we, as sinful human beings, can do to others with our speech to cause them harm. It includes slander, scolding in harsh, insolent or abusive language, and speaking evil of someone.
Lastly, we are to put away malice. This is “a desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another and implies a deep-seated often unexplainable desire to see another suffer.” (Webster) It is meanness, mean-spiritedness, hatefulness. It comes from sin in our own hearts, perhaps from sin inflicted upon us that we have not dealt with before the Lord, and, as the people of God, we are commanded to get rid of it.
We are to remember that those of us who follow God must be different from those who do not know Him: “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For
“He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.” (1 Peter 3:8-10)
Help us put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, clamor, evil-speaking, and malice, and instead have compassion for one another, love as brothers, be tenderhearted, and courteous. Help us not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but bless others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.