Let us pray: Dear Savior, it is easy to repay evil with evil. It is easy to punch back when hit. It is easy to vent our hurt upon another when they unload upon us. But, such behavior doesn’t help them and it doesn’t help us. It only hardens our hearts and mocks Your sacrifice for us. Today inspire us to rise above such behavior and glorify You, alone. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE LORD OF BLESSING
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 30-5:2
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Who of us hasn’t felt “road rage?” Just this past week I had two people cut me off on the freeway and my blood pressure immediately went up. It’s just so rude. It’s also dangerous. I well recall a member who told me the story, many years ago, of her road rage problems and her solution to it. This mild mannered woman confessed her use of bad language stemming from many white-knuckle driving excursions. She felt guilty about it—especially when she acted that way while coming to church! And her solution was to say a prayer at such times, instead of venting foul language. The result was: when she arrived at her destination she now felt refreshed instead of harried.
Pent-up anger is dangerous. It is faith-destroying, too. And since we all are troubled with it and by it, it’s important to find solutions. Our text lays out a solution. So, this morning I urge all of you to:
LIVE LARGE BY BASKING IN THE FREEDOM OF LETTING GO!
No doubt, your mother told you when growing up that it takes a bigger person not to retaliate when unjustly confronted by another. Your mother was right! And yet, when someone vents on us and hurts us deeply inside, we often revert to the ways of our sinful side. You know the drill—hit back harder, yell louder, or plot a way to get even. God made us with emotions. And we’re sorely tempted to embrace the dark side of those emotions more often than we’d like to admit. Nonetheless, we’re told that by doing so, we not only hurt ourselves, but we hurt God, too. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Yes, by not striking back in like manner, we avoid giving God grief.—And we avoid giving ourselves even more grief!
God knows human emotions. He knows our psyche better than we know ourselves. After all, Christ, the Son of God, “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Yes, our emotional pain and our emotional sins nailed Him to a cross. So, don’t re-nail Him to the cross! Get rid of revenge! Learn to let it go!
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
The word used here for “bitterness” means just that. Kind of like sucking on a lemon and having it disfigure your face. Next Paul couples together two words meaning: fury and hot-headedness. When you lash back without thinking things through, events usually blow up in your face, don’t they? That, in turn, often leads to physical violence and/or words of slander that later you wish you could take back. And the apostle concludes this section by also including the word: malice. That’s an interesting twist. For malice is not really action-oriented, it is the careful plotting of revenge, getting even, in the heart. In that, it is much more destructive of faith since it is carefully thought out in advance.
As a Pastor, you have to learn to take people where they’re at and lead them closer to God. I’ve had to learn not to take it personal when someone pops off in the heat of the moment. For you know that as a Christian, they’ll get over it and remorse will set in later on when their thinking isn’t darkened by momentary anger. That being said, it is much more dangerous and harder to handle someone who fosters malice within. Sadly, I’ve experienced misguided folks who were bent on “getting even” for a supposed hurt, and allowed such sin to control everything they did. After taking such abuse, eventually the best solution, the Godly solution, was simply to part ways and commend them to God’s care. I’m sure most of you have had the disagreeable task of breaking it off with similar folks.
But when you learn to “rise above” such internal sins, when you forgive them in your own heart and even sadly walk away after doing so, it is liberating! For by so doing, you are actually imitating Christ. Think about it. Jesus wasn’t a doormat for verbal abuse. And yet He willingly gave His life to pay for all sins—including the abuse of those who rejected Him. He wasn’t willing to let their emotional rage destroy the depth of His love for hurting, lost, human souls.—For you and me.
Of all people ever born into this world, Jesus possessed the deepest love and compassion. It was perfect, untainted in any way. And because of that, He also possessed the clearest of consciences. He knew the depth of human hate, after all, it killed Him. And yet, the depth of His love and mercy far outweighed such emotional pain and gave Him freedom—freedom to love, freedom to give of Himself, freedom to enjoy life with His new-found family—you and me.
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
King David once described what pleases God most in life and what gives Him the most joy. He wrote in the Psalms: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” Inner anger and revenge-plotting hurt you and they hurt God. They mock what Christ did for us on the cross. They never make you a better person. And they destroy true holiness. But by letting go of such anger, you and I can bask in the freedom of a conscience made spotless by the blood of the Lamb. And that, my friends, truly is: Living Large! Amen