"Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:29-32 (NLT)
Over the years I have battled to "get rid" of some of those things listed above. It's not as easy as it sounds. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians says, "Just get rid of these feelings." OK, how? What do I do? "Just get over it," he says. Well, I can't. I'm not. So now what?
Usually it starts with somebody wronging us, perhaps it was a serious mistake that hurt us and/or cost us in some way. Or they said something critical to us that we didn't deserve. We have every reason to be upset. What they did was just wrong. We find ourselves thinking critically about them as we try to understand what happened and what we will have to do to fix it or make it right. This critical kind of thinking leads to us being victimized by them if we are not careful. But we are Christians, so we have to forgive. We try, but the best we can do is ignore it and hope the situation goes away. But is there anything else we can do?
First of all, I am learning that sometimes, well usually, the problem is not the other person, it's me. It's the way I think about them, the attitude I have developed toward them, and then the temptation I have to get back at them because "they" were wrong. This is especially difficult with people closest to you because we feel hurt from loved ones more intensely, but it can occur between spouses, kids, coworkers, neighbors, etc., really anyone in your life.
When someone offends or wrongs us, is there something that can be done on the front end to remedy hard feelings? How do we "get rid" of our critical thoughts and not allow ourselves to be trapped by negative thinking?
God, in His faithfulness, has shown me something priceless that I now get to share with others. When those critical thoughts come up, just "get rid" of them in the Name of Jesus. Cast them out of your mind, like you would cast out something filthy. These critical thoughts are usually lies anyway, and they are unhealthy to hang on to. Instead, replace them with thoughts of desire or admiration as Paul says, this time to the Philippians: "Finally, brothers and sisters, keep your thoughts on whatever is right or deserves praise: things that are true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, or commendable. Practice what you've learned and received from me, what you heard and saw me do. Then the God who gives this peace will be with you." (Phil. 4:8-9 GW)
Paul is saying that every time a critical thought comes into your brain, use it as an opportunity to sow a good thought toward your husband, wife, child, neighbor, co-worker, etc. As we begin to sow these thoughts, we actually begin to feel differently. Then because we feel differently, we no longer need to "fake it" when we see them. Things begin to change immediately. It's like rain. Rain can destroy things, but it is essential for growing new things, too. Every critical thought is like a rain drop that can either destroy something, or instead, be used to grow something beautiful. Let's look at an example.
A husband and wife leave for work in the morning thinking about how they were offended by their spouse. Those critical thoughts that spring up from being offended keep popping up throughout the day. Then its time to come home. Many people just stuff it and try to fake it when they walk in the door. But the other spouse can feel it, and so can others in the home. You can feel the tension, it's so thick. You try to hold that tension in, but eventually those thoughts and feelings spew out. Houston, we have a problem!
You see, sowing, or dwelling on, the offending thoughts in the first place is what leads to bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. If instead you decide to sow thoughts of desire for your spouse emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and physically, you can avoid a rift in the relationship, hurt feelings, or worse. You'll actually feel more excited to go home. And I promise you will actually feel and be happier. That authentic joy, that happiness, will be seen by your spouse and reflected in them. That new attitude is contagious and begins to grow something beautiful between you.
In any relationship, our thoughts of the other person come out when we see them. We are always happy to see people who are happy to see us. Let's stop faking it and put into practice what Paul said in Ephesians 4:32, "Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."
Do you have people in your life that have wronged you, but you know you need to "get rid" of bitterness, rage, malice, or slanderous thoughts about them? Will you commit to changing your mind about them and replacing bad thoughts with whatever is right or deserves praise? Invite Jesus into this process of restoring and reconciling. You'll be glad you did. Please email me to let me know how God is working in and through your life.
Pastor Michael Baggett
Bridges is a weekly gathering of single adults in the Sacramento area, whose mission is to help develop great friendships and healthy relationships with God and others. Bridges currently meets on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m. at Life Community Church in Roseville, CA. To learn more, contact Michael Baggett at email@example.com, or visit www.BridgesSacramento.com.