Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT

That’s a pretty comprehensive list of negatives. Paul listed “bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander” and then almost as an afterthought, and just to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, he added “all types of evil behaviour”. I wonder what prompted his thinking? Perhaps, as he languished in his prison cell, he remembered his friends back in Ephesus and thought about how they lived. Perhaps he was thinking, “I remember that lady with the blue robe – she was a very bitter woman”. Or, “I wish Sparticus (would that be the name of someone in Ephesus?) wouldn’t erupt in an angry rant every time someone disagreed with him”. Perhaps Paul found himself holding his tongue when he heard the way they spoke about each other. But from his prison cell he found the freedom to write about it. Somehow his suffering added weight to his message. His message was relevant in his day and is still relevant today. It is timeless. Human nature hasn’t changed much over the centuries. So often our behaviour is learned from our circumstances. So a child watching an angry father might copy his behaviour. Another child hearing a gossiping relative might think that they can do the same. Others might see the trolling on social media and join in, trying to outdo the vile comments left by someone else. As an aside today, I wonder if Paul would have had a Facebook page or a Twitter account? If he had the posts would have been amazing, I’m sure. Regardless of what behaviour we learn from others, though, sometimes the ways we speak, the emotions we display, the ways we react – they are all driven by the sinful person we are inside. 

Anyway, Paul encouraged his readers to replace all their negatives with the word “instead”. And the second of our verses today sets out the ways in which we should behave. Instead of being bitter and angry we should be kind and compassionate. The word “tender-hearted” is used. There is a man living near me who had a horrendous upbringing, being brought up in acute poverty with a mother and ten siblings. But now in his retirement, he helps out with feeding and caring for a few animals on a small-holding near him. He is a very soft-hearted man, and I pointed that out to him yesterday. His response was that he was soft with animals but not with people. A man tender-hearted by nature but hardened by exposure to a life of contact with people displaying “evil behaviour“.

How are we with our fellow members of society? Are we pilgrims secure within hard walls that we have erected to protect us from the hard knocks in life? To prevent the barbed comment and nasty insinuations from hurting us? Or are we tenderhearted, feeling the pain of others? Allowing, in a spirit of forgiveness, “harsh words and slander” to wash over us? Responding with kindness and love, compassion and mercy? That is the Jesus way. When nails were hammered into His hands He responded with “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). He loved His enemies even to the end. So what else can we do? We can only echo Jesus’ love for others in the way we face into life. Interface with those around us. Forgiving others as Christ has forgiven us.


Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!
The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble.
The LORD protects them
and keeps them alive.
He gives them prosperity in the land
and rescues them from their enemies.
The LORD nurses them when they are sick
and restores them to health.
Psalm 41:1-3 NLT

The very first line of the first verse in this Psalm associates joy with showing kindness to poor people. Sadly, for people in affluent societies, being poor is associated with negative connotations, and perhaps unkind judgements about why they are “poor”. We tend to look at poverty as being a lack of finances, but that is to neglect so many other forms of being poor. There are, perhaps, a few hints in these verses about other kinds of poverty. The poverty of being in trouble. The poverty of being in physical danger. The poverty of sickness. I would add too the poverty of being lonely, without friends or family. 

In Matthew 5, Jesus said to His disciples, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The “poor in spirit” are those people who recognise that they lack the resources God puts value on. Heavenly currency is not anything of earthly value, like gold (we read in Revelation that it is used to make roads!). Having spiritual currency starts with the realisation that we have nothing to offer God of any value. Because of our sins we are destitute before Him and have to recognise this by coming to Him in faith for the salvation He has offered through Jesus. In Matthew 6, Jesus encouraged His disciples to build up “treasure in Heaven” through their service to Him.

But what was David referring to in these verses in Psalm 41? In verse 1, he was, I think, referring to Godly people in his day, who were looking after the needy people around them. And through them God was providing for them. Although God can directly provide the resources people need for life, most of the time He chooses to deliver His provision through His people. So we are encouraged to be His servants by looking out for those who are poor, in our communities, in our families, supplying fellowship, a helping hand. Nursing those in need. Providing a listening ear when needed. The opportunities are endless. There is a young woman in my community who every week, uses her lunch hour to walk the dog of an old lady, now immobilised following a fall. A young woman banking spiritual currency for her future.

So we, as God’s people, have a challenge today. As the King’s servants, what does He want us to do to relieve the poverty around us? There may not just be financial needs, there will be others as well. In our communities, who can we find who is “poor”? 

God’s Shining Face

“Make Your face shine upon Your servant; Save me in Your lovingkindness. Psalms‬ ‭31:16‬ ‭AMP‬‬

God’s shining face. What a lovely picture. A face full of illumination, transparent, translucent and attractive. A face looking at me with love, kindness and grace. A God-face on a faceless God. An expression of a God who cares for me and is interested in everything about me.

God’s shining face. Sadly in our mundane, human-bound world, God’s shining face is eclipsed by the worries and cares of life. But it’s still there, as permanent as the sun by day and the moon by night. Always ready and willing to shine on you, and me. Look carefully into the face of our Creator and see the light of his countenance, shining through. As the old song says:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

God’s shining face. Thank You, God, for shining on me today.