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How should we respond to God’s mercy in our lives?

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in The Messiah also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NASB)

These verses warn us against several sins of the attitude and amplify what Paul wrote about anger. Bitterness refers to a settled hostility that poisons the whole inner man. Somebody does something we do not like, so we harbor ill will against him.

  • “Husbands, love your wives and be not bitter against them” (Col. 3:19). Bitterness leads to wrath, which is the explosion on the outside of the feelings on the inside.
  • Wrath and anger often lead to brawling (clamor) or blasphemy (evil speaking). The first is fighting with fists, the second is fighting with words.
  • It is difficult to believe that Christians would act this way, but they do, and this is why Paul warned us, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1).

Paul gives three reasons why we must avoid bitterness. First, it grieves the Holy Spirit. He lives within the disciple of Jesus, and when the heart is filled with bitterness and anger, the Spirit grieves. We parents know just a little of this feeling when our children at home fight with each other.

  • The Holy Spirit is happiest in an atmosphere of love, joy, and peace, for these are the “fruit of the Spirit” that He produces in our lives as we obey Him.
  • The Holy Spirit cannot leave us, because He has sealed us until that day when Christ returns to take us home.
  • We do not lose our salvation because of our sinful attitudes, but we certainly lose the joy of our salvation and the fullness of the Spirit’s blessing.

Second, our sin grieves God the Son, who died for us. Third, it grieves God the Father who forgave us when we trusted Christ. Here Paul put his finger on the basic cause of a bitter attitude: We cannot forgive people. An unforgiving spirit is the devil’s playground, and before long it becomes the Christian’s battleground.

  • If somebody hurts us, either deliberately or unintentionally, and we do not forgive him, then we begin to develop bitterness within, which hardens the heart.
  • We should be tenderhearted and kind, but instead we are hardhearted and bitter.
  • We are not hurting the person who hurt us; we are only hurting ourselves. Bitterness in the heart makes us treat others the way Satan treats them, when we should treat others the way God has treated us.
  • In His gracious kindness, God has forgiven us, and we should forgive others. We do not forgive for our sake (though we do get a blessing from it) or even for their sake, but for Jesus’ sake. Learning how to forgive and forget is one of the secrets of a happy Christian life.

Review once again the motives for “walking in purity”: We are members one of another; Satan wants to get a foothold in our lives; we ought to share with others; we ought to build one another up; and we ought not to grieve God. And, after all, we have been raised from the dead—so why wear the graveclothes? Jesus says of us as He said of Lazarus: “Loose him, and let him go!”

  • Matthew 6:12 — 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
  • Matthew 6:14 — 14 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
  • Matthew 18:21–35 — 21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Master, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his Master commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27 “And the Master of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their Master all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his Master said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his Master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
  • Luke 6:37 — 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
  • Luke 17:3–4 — 3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
  • 2 Corinthians 2:7 — 7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
  • Colossians 3:13 — 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Master forgave you, so also should you.