LifeLink Devotions (Click here for audio blog)
Friday, March 11, 2022
Membership in the body of Christ provides the most complete and fulfilling form of relationship with others. Or at least it’s supposed to. Most of the time we don’t get to experience the joy of intimacy the way God intended because we are overly focused on our personal feelings or the feelings of others. Now don’t misinterpret that. I know we are to be sensitive and concerned about the feelings of others, but I think within the body of Christ we have exaggerated that concern to the point of sin. Let me explain.
Ephesians 4:25-27 “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
When Paul wrote these words he did not state two distinct issues separated by a verse marking. I believe the issue of speaking truthfully to one another and the issue of unresolved anger are intricately connected. The devil has a foothold in our lives and in our churches because we don’t see that connection. Let me explain it.
First, silence can be falsehood. Not speaking the truth is lying, whether it is the actual verbal expression of untruth or the withholding of truth by silence. We sin against the other members of the body of Christ when we fail to speak the truth to them. Of course, the presentation of that truth is critical – it must be done in love.
A few years ago, I played my last softball game of my life with our church team. I was so excited to be a part of the team, and to have all the young, athletic, macho guys accept me as one of them, even though the age and physical conditioning differences are obvious. Prior to the game, I spent some time on the grass stretching my leg muscles. Ouch! They were so out of shape. Each time I would stretch they would scream at my brain and tell them they were hurting. My brain told the other parts of my body to slow down a little and be considerate of those muscles until they reached the flexibility level that was desired. My hamstring rejoiced that his voice had been heard, and that the other members of the body had rallied to his assistance. In the end, the whole body was able to function to the best of its current ability.
There would have been a different outcome if my brain had not heard the voice of my hamstring and continued to command running hard. I would have been hurt for a long time and the body would not have been able to function in a competitive manner. But what if my hamstring, not wanting to offend the other muscles that were ready to play, had kept silent about his need or his pain? That lie would have had the same result of disabling my body. The first time I rounded first base and dug for second on a hit I would have probably pulled up as I grabbed the back of my thigh and screamed in pain. Silencing hurts is falsehood. In the body of Christ, all hurts, all pains, all offenses are to be openly communicated and dealt with in love. It’s what makes for true intimacy. It’s what keeps the body of Christ healthy.
The second point is this – when we keep silent about our hurts, it causes anger to develop into bitterness. Anger is the emotional response to hurt and pain. Anger itself is not sin. Most people, when asked to explain how anger becomes sin, respond with something like, “when it leads us to do something sinful.” They usually mean that the anger leads us to acts of vengeance, spite, gossip, or other form of redirected pain toward others. However, in the context of these verses, the sin Paul is referring to is the sin of silence. We sin against each other when we live under the pretense that all is well, while inside we are seething with anger. We sin against our own spirit and its relationship with the Holy Spirit when we bury our true feelings and deny their expression within the context of the loving, caring, and forgiving body of Christ. We give Satan a foothold in our lives and in our church by planting the seed of bitterness when we don’t deal with issues of hurt feelings and anger before the sun goes down on them. We justify that course of action by claiming that we don’t want the rest of the body to be hurt, when in fact we are hurting it more deeply than by speaking the truth.
The Body of Christ is to be the most fulfilling form of relationship with others. Silence does not enhance relationships. Some issues may be insignificant and need to simply be overlooked. That’s what Paul meant when he said we are to “bear with one another in love.” When our silence is bearing with one another in love, then our spirit will not be angry. We can’t have it both ways. If what happened makes us angry, then we must deal with it in a loving way. Every stretch of the muscles brings greater health to the whole body and prepares us all for running the race with greater efficiency.