“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)
In his excellent biography of Winston Churchill, Paul Johnson notes one of the lessons to be learned from Churchill’s life:
Churchill wasted an extraordinarily small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meannesses of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas. Having fought hard, he washed his hands and went on to the next contest. It is one reason for his success. There is nothing more draining and exhausting than hatred. And malice is bad for judgment. Churchill loved to forgive and make up.” (Churchill, pp. 164-165)
If this famous war leader, politician, and public figure – although an unbeliever – could learn this valuable lesson, why not the people of God? In Ephesians 4 we are told to put away the “meannesses of life” such as bitterness, wrath, anger, and malice. In contrast, we are to exhibit kindness, forgiveness, and a tender heart.
Yet if we honestly assess our lives, how much time and energy do we waste on grudges, gossip, and hatred? How often do we blame others and seek their harm? If we are not careful, the meanness of life will consume our souls. It is a fierce master, draining our emotional resources and driving us toward irrational behavior. It is a greedy thief, robbing us of happiness. It is a punishing tyrant, imprisoning us in the dungeon of self-pity.
But there is a way to escape the meanness of life. It involves a choice and a change. The choice is to follow Scripture and choose to put away from yourself all the mean things of life. This is a conscious decision to fight the natural tendency we have to react with bitterness, anger, and malice. We often choose meanness because we want to be mean. In order to choose to put away meanness, we must want something else more.
This is where the change comes in. The change involves our attitudes. We must change the way we think of others and respond to others. According to Ephesians 4:32, this means we replace meanness with kindness, bitterness with forgiveness, and an angry heart with a tender heart. When we want to be kind and forgiving, we will find it much easier to choose to do so.
This change in desires is possible for you because of the gospel. The good news is that God has forgiven you through the cross-work of His Son. And as God in Christ forgave you, so He has freed you to forgive others. He has broken the power of sin so that the meanness of life is no longer a tyrant within you. He has given you a new heart with new desires so that you want to follow the commands of His Word. He has given you His Spirit who produces fruit like kindness, goodness, and gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23) within you.
You can choose to put away the meanness of life. You can change your attitudes toward others. Depend upon God in prayer, draw from the promises of Scripture, and devote yourself to the good things of life.
For Churchill, it was extraordinary the small amount of time and energy he wasted on the “meannesses of life.” For the Christian, it should be ordinary the small amount of time and energy we waste on meanness. We walk in the newness of life and in the love of Christ. We have the Spirit producing His fruit within us.
Spend your time and energy on kindness and forgiveness. And by God’s help do all you can to eradicate the cancer of meanness from your soul.