“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
The gospel is in these verses: “. . . as God in Christ forgave you.” The rest of it is how we are to be true to that gospel, how not to be a living denial of the very gospel we profess, how to be living proof of that sacred gospel.
Faithfulness to the gospel is more than signing a doctrinal statement. That’s a good thing to do. But faithfulness to the gospel is more. Far more.
Faithfulness to the gospel is also treating one another as God in Christ has treated us. It is not that hard to sign a piece of paper or take a vow that we stand for the gospel. Again, that’s a good thing to do. But it is far more demanding to bear living witness to the gospel by denying the demands of Ego and treating one another with the grace God has shown us in Christ.
When the gospel actually sinks in, we change. Winning no longer matters. Getting in the last word no longer matters. Payback no longer matters. We now perceive such things as contemptible, compared with the display of God’s grace in Christ.
Unbelieving people are not impressed by our official positions on paper. They will not pay attention – nor should they – until they see the beauty of the gospel in our relationships.
Jonathan Edwards, observing his wife under the influence of the Holy Spirit, noted this about her:
“There were earnest longings that all God’s people might be clothed with humility and meekness, like the Lamb of God, and feel nothing in their hearts but love and compassion to all mankind; and great grief when anything to the contrary appeared in any of the children of God, as bitterness, fierceness of zeal, censoriousness, or reflecting uncharitably on others, or disputing with any appearance of heat of spirit.”
Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:377.