Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Is the imperative of Ephesians 4:31.
These sin issues are poison and will be the death of a church. In Ephesians 4 Paul is speaking to the church, and he opens the chapter telling us to walk worthy of the calling we have received in Christ. He speaks about being unified as one body in Christ Jesus and the passage flows into the personal responsibility we all share in making this happen.
I am so sad to say it is not that way in many of our fellowships. Our churches have become hotbeds for dissension, and factions have developed over issues of music, proper attire and Bible translations. Add to this the personal insults and hurt feelings some people struggle with along with pride that comes from a sinful heart, and you have a real sorry spiritual environment.
To some degree, factions are necessary. Paul said “there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.” (1 Corinthians 11:19) This is how we separate the sheep from the wolves in some cases! We are not to be lemmings blindly following our leaders without question, we are told to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), to approve the doctrine being taught to us (1 Tim. 6:3, 2 Tim. 4:3-4), and to approve them as being faithful (2 Tim. 2:2, Titus 1:9) to the teaching of the Word and to the standards set forth in Scripture for spiritual leaders.
However, too many of our factions are over purely sinful things. You don’t like me or something I said, I don’t like you because of music, or clothing or any of the other previously mentioned things. And then we all come together on Sunday morning pretend we like each other and call it worship and yet our hearts are full of all this unrepentant sin toward one another! We ask God’s blessing on it and pretend that somehow we are bringing God glory by these actions…
In reality, these things are a nauseating stench to God’s nostrils and it is for the same kinds of hypocrisy that Jesus said “woe to you”! (Matt. 23:27) This is false unity which is beautiful on the outside but is full of crawling worms inside because the inside is dead and rotting.
When will the church realize that God sees the hearts of men? When will she realize that despite the pretense of holiness she is deeply sinful and in need of repentance? Taking it out of the abstract, we must collectively realize that we are our own worst enemies and admit to God that our worship is not from a pure heart!
We must confess our sin to one another-admit our own wrongs. What usually happens is our confessions include “but” (the great dis-qualifier) and we want to shift the blame for our sinful behavior on the other person. This is obvious when we say that we would not have said or done something if the other person would not have said or done what they did. This is not repentance or confession, it is blame shifting and justification of personal sin! True confession is done in humility and seeks to reconcile with others rather than justify ones self.
We must forgive one another from the heart! Often our forgiveness is just lip service and meaningless! We say we forgive but continue to cherish the hurt or offense in the heart. We continue to think critical thoughts, gossip about them to others, and rehearse the events over and over in our minds. Heart level forgiveness means that you transfer the hurt to the cross, the desire for revenge to the cross, and the anger and hatred to the cross. It means that you see the offender through the eyes of Christ- from the cross.
True forgiveness means that you do not ever bring up the incident again. You do not bring it up to others, you do not bring it up to them, and you do not bring it up to yourself. True forgiveness mirrors that of God towards us! The offense is thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), and the forgiveness is all of grace (Eph. 1:7). We do not forgive them because they deserve to be forgiven, we forgive them because we were undeserving and were shown mercy and grace.