Are we true to the gospel?

“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

Ray Ortlund:

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.


The Psychology of Resentment by seemingly unstoppable pull toward resentment. All you need to do is live a little in this fallen world. Before long you’re given a good solid reason to resent someone. Often someone quite close to you. Family member, spouse, parent, long-time friend, etc. It feels impossible to love that person.

What causes such bitterness? Why are our hearts so immovably deadened toward that person?

Well, they wronged you, so you resent them. They hurt you. They did what they should never have done. Or didn’t do what they should have done. And you bear the wounds.

Yes—but what’s the reason beneath the reason?

The fundamental reason is your God-given sense of justice—itself a good thing. You have been wronged, and you, created in God’s image and therefore with a rightly functioning sense of justice, of fairness, cry out that justice be done. The playing field must be leveled. Fairness demands it.

The trouble is that as a law-abiding citizen you know you can’t do something physically to them, as you may wish to (let’s just be honest here shall we?). And as a Christian you know you can’t verbally or publicly do something to them (perhaps simply because you would rather keep your reputation and leave them alone than exact revenge and lose your reputation; the greater idol outweighs the lesser).

So what happens? Where does a gospel-vacuous heart go in such a case? Here is what happens: instead of doing something externally to harm them you do something internally to harm them. You harbor bitterness. This is the psychology of resentment. You exercise emotional punishment toward them internally when actual punishment can’t be exercised externally. You set up a law-court in your heart since an actual law-court is unfeasible.

But here’s what happens. The bitterness you harbor, the emotional punishment you exact in your heart, has precisely the opposite effect, over time, than you think. Bitterness does nothing to the offender, while it quietly destroys the offended. Resentment kills, hollows out, the resenter, not the resented.

How then do we conquer bitterness?

By soaking in two realities.

One, God is the judge. He has a law court. A real law-court. And one day every person on the face of the earth who is not in Christ will be the defendant. The Bible even says that Christians one day will themselves assist God in judging the world, even judging the angels (1 Cor 6:2–3). Eventual fairness, justice, righting of wrongs, is gloriously inevitable. Your day of judging your offender is coming. But it is not today. You will take up the gavel. Just not today. If you seek to exact premature judgment, you destroy yourself.

Two, and most crucially, you yourself have offended God. And continue to offend him, in a hundred ways you are conscious of and a thousand you are not, every day. But he didn’t harbor bitterness against you. He didn’t resent you. He sent his Son for you. God decided to lay down every reason to resent you. Having been forgiven this, how in the world could we resent another?

Here’s C. S. Lewis, ‘On Forgiveness’–

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single person great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life–to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son–how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say our prayers each night ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.