In this final part of chapter four Paul offers useful advice for the ongoing community of the Church.
Good church communities are inside-out phenomena. When God's Grace is at work INSIDE people and they courageously live it OUT then the outcome is real Christ-honouring unity and not rigid uniformity or compromising conformity.
In each of the four verses here Paul tackles an INSIDE attitude:
The first has to do with the tongue. The Bible speaks a lot about the tongue and Jesus made it clearest when He said: "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Mt.12:34) We need to learn to put a leash on our tongue:
- avoiding the unwholesome
- building up others
- adding benefit to those who hear.
The point here is the leash on the tongue - the tongue is the bridge between the inner and outer worlds, and when we get good security on the bridge we will be healthier people and the world around us will benefit.
Next up, Paul calls us to march in step with the Spirit. His word choice is striking here: Don't "grieve" the Spirit. He is reminding us that that Spirit is not an impersonal force, but an equal part of the Trinity. We are in relationship with Him. The internal choices we make affect our relationship with Him. How do you feel when someone you love very much makes bad choices?
Thirdly Paul calls us to root out bitterness and all its companions. These are the negative emotions that fester in us and cause us to become dissatisfied, disgruntled and disappointed in life. We need to relentlessly eradicate these things in our lives. Are you angry, bitter, disgruntled? Get over it! If you can't get over it, get help!
When we get rid of the negatives of bitterness, there is room for kindness and compassion and Paul urges us to make decisions to be kind and to forgive. His argument for this is a trump-card: because Christ forgave you! There's no arguing against that.
So, this is the inside-out change process:
- Start by putting security on the bridge between inside and out
- Remember that you have a friendship with God through the Spirit
- Relentlessly root out bitterness
- Be gracious because Jesus was extra gracious to us!