“Mom, what are we having for dinner?” Clara tapped her pencil against the table.
Mom turned around from stirring the big pot on the stove. “Venison and veggie stew. Do you need any help with your homework?”
“I can’t focus,” Clara said with a groan. She scowled. “I keep thinking about what Emerson said to me.”
Mom sighed and headed over to the table. “Clara, your brother apologized and received a punishment–days ago. Why are you stewing over this?”
“Huh? Stewing?” asked Clara. “We haven’t even eaten the stew!”
Mom laughed. “No, it’s a homonym. Like what you’re working on in school.” She tapped Clara’s paper. “Like a dog’s bark and a tree’s bark? Stew has more than one meaning. Sometimes, it can mean you’re thinking about something with agitation or resentment–you’re dwelling on it.”
“Kind of like our food stew has been in the pot for hours?” asked Clara. “And I’ve been dwelling on what Emerson said for days?”
Mom nodded. “Here’s a question for you, Clara. What has your stewing done for you?”
“I guess it’s made me more upset…and a little distracted,” Clara admitted thoughtfully.
“When we choose to focus on forgiveness and allow God to be the Judge, it softens our hearts and gives us freedom.” Mom drew a heart on Clara’s paper.
“Even if the person who did something wrong doesn’t deserve it?” Clara asked.
Mom looked into Clara’s eyes. “We didn’t deserve Jesus’s forgiveness, and yet He died on the cross for us. When I start dwelling on what someone did, I talk with Jesus and think about what He did for us. I remember the kindness and compassion He has for me and the person who hurt me. And that allows me to forgive.”
Clara sighed. “It’s hard sometimes, but you’re right. I’m making ‘ew stew’ in my mind and heart, and I would rather be brewing something yummy.”
“Like coffee?” Mom winked.
“Oooh, yes, with extra sweet creamer!” Clara giggled. “Kindness and forgiveness coffee.”
Mom handed Clara an empty coffee cup. “Yum! I’ll take some of that, please!”
A sense of urgency marks Ephesians 4:17-32. Like most ancient cities, Ephesus was morally corrupt, and Paul wanted these believers to understand that Christianity requires a revolutionary change in their lives. Christians can no longer live as they once lived; God calls them to a new and righteous lifestyle.
The church has placed less emphasis on the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of Christianity. Social sins have screamed so loudly in their impact on humanity that the church has had to confess its sin of uninvolvement, insensitivity, and apathy. The church has invested its energy in social concern and change. This can never leave out personal morality. The time has come to multiply places of sharing where struggle and contemplations are closely related to daily living.
In verses 17-19, the term “Gentiles” means people who actively reject the knowledge of God, not Gentile believers. Such people may consider themselves enlightened, and they may even be quite intelligent, but their separation from God makes their thinking unproductive and blind. Their lack of spiritual understanding makes them callous about morality and leads to sinful behaviour such as lewdness and greed. Their hearts were hardened, and they gave themselves to “lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Paul says that we as believers have been delivered from this.
If we continue to deny the truth of God’s Word, our understanding is darkened. The more we deny truth, the less capable we become in understanding and appreciating truth. Every time we surrender to temptation our hearts harden their sensitivity and narrow the range of future choices. When we reject God’s Word we become alienated from Him, and we destroy the source of mental, moral, and spiritual health. We don’t ask ultimate questions, and we develop a lack of concern.
Paul said that believers “should put off…the old man,” rejecting that former way of life and its corruption. We have to make a conscious, moment-by-moment choice to depend on the Holy Spirit’s power to change us into the likeness of Christ. Those who trust in Christ have been given a new position in His new creation, but they must daily choose to live His way. Believers can and should participate in the process of putting off the old man and putting on the new man, but ultimately the process and outcome belong to God. He is the one who changes people. Every believer can be assisted in the all-important work of being renewed in his or her mind.
A Christian’s uniqueness in the world should be apparent in his or her morality, mood, money, mouth, and manners. To avoid sinning in the heat of anger, God’s people should not nurse, rehearse, discuss, or project their anger onto others. Instead, they should control their anger and deal with it quickly to prevent the enemy from gaining any ground in their hearts. Paul also calls us to honest labour as a sign of the newness of life. This honest labour is to be used to create something that can be given to someone who is needy. We are also to be kind to each other.
Verses 17-28 explain how Christians should walk; verse 29 offers helpful advice on how Christians should talk. They need to choose words that encourage, exhort, and impart grace to others. When Paul cautions against corrupt words, he uses a Greek term that describes the decaying body of an animal. Such conversation is deadly enough among unbelievers and should never be heard among God’s people.
God’s example is the model for how we forgive others. Forgiving others is not about a feeling. It’s about a promise and obedience. When we forgive someone, we make a three-point promise:
- We will not bring the matter up with that person again.
- We will not bring the matter up with anyone else.
- We will not bring the matter back up to ourselves.
One scholar wrote, “Of all deeds, words are the most revealing, the most instantly available, the most freighted with personal significance.” In Hebrew, thought, word, and deed are not distinct from one another. To say something was to do something.
The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer discovered the truth of this saying, and he witnessed to it in the Flossenberg Prison, where he was condemned to die during Word War II for opposing Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party. He walked the narrow corridors visiting prisoners and encouraging them. He laughed and joked with them, reminisced with them, and prayed with them. His words were his main means of ministry, but his words were deeds. He wrote, “God has put His Word into our mouths in order that it may be communicated to others. The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs that friend again and again and again.”
Have you ever had a hard time forgiving someone? When we find ourselves in this situation, we can remember the forgiveness God shows us through His Son, Jesus. Forgiveness means releasing your desire for revenge and giving it over to Jesus, the good Judge who will one day take care of every wrong. If you have asked Him to be your Savior, you have His power to help you forgive.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1645)
- Dunnam, M.D., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 206-215)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Dr. Paul Chappell, “New Clothes.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Allister Begg, “The Reason We Forgive.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- “Ew Stew.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org