If I could pick one verse in the Bible to apply to my life it would be Ephesians 4:32. More than read it or memorize it, I want to live it to the point of where I become Ephesians 4:32. So what does this verse say? Here it is and then I’ll elaborate on the three B’s which should describe every believer:
“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (NASB)
1. Be Kind. First of all, this verse is telling me how I should treat others. It is other-centered. The first thing I’m to be is kind to others. What does that mean? In the Greek it means to treat others with “goodness or graciousness.” Do I treat others kindly? Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). So if the Spirit is ruling my life I will treat others kindly. What does that mean practically? It means I will offer my seat on the crowded bus to an older person who is standing. That’s a kind thing to do. It means I will allow that car waiting in the merge lane to enter my lane of traffic. That’s kind. It means I will invite the person with two items to go in front of me with my full cart at the grocery store. Acting in a kind way flows from a heart of kindness that is ruled by the Spirit.
The opposite of being kind to others is being unkind. Unkind people are self-centered. They want revenge for slights done to them. They are harsh in their words and hurtful in their actions toward others. Their motto is “If you hurt me I will pay you back twice as much as you hurt me.” No Spirit-filled believer ever does that!
2. Be Tender-hearted. The Greek word for tender-hearted is fascinating. It literally means to have “good bowels”. For Greeks the center of a person and the seat of his emotions was in his bowels. In time the center of a person moved up from bowels to heart. So to be tender-hearted is to be good-hearted to others. If I’m tender-hearted, I have compassion toward those who are suffering. It means I care when I hear of someone in my church who is hospitalized or in financial difficulty and I make the effort to help them. To be tender-hearted toward others may mean I care for the visitor to my church by inviting him or his family to join me for a meal. It means I choose to pay the difference when the woman in front of me in the check-out line at the grocery store is short of funds.
The opposite of tender-hearted is hard-hearted. Hard-hearted people are self-absorbed and ignore or are oblivious to the needs of others. Like Scrooge from A Christmas Carol (Dickens), they turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the cries of the needy. Hard-hearted people rationalize why they don’t need to help others with words such as, “Those people are just lazy. Hey, the government will help them; after all I pay enough in taxes!” To be hard-hearted is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Consider 1 John 3:17, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Hard-hearted people have a “closed heart.” They lack love. Like kindness, love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). If the Holy Spirit is ruling in my life I will love others and be tender-hearted toward them.
3. Be Forgiving. To be kind and tender-hearted are both adjectives. Forgiving is a present tense participle meaning it’s an action with no time limit. We are always to forgive others. We are to treat them with kindness and tender-heartedness because that’s how God has dealt with us. To forgive is to release someone from a debt. Whether it is a financial debt, a sin-debt, or an emotional debt, we are to be forgivers. Do I forgive the one who has wronged me only if they ask for forgiveness? No, I am to forgive them so that I am no longer hooked to them. When I forgive them I release them from “my hook” but they are never off God’s hook and He will make things right.
The opposite of forgiving is unforgiveness. I sometimes hear that spoken in court trials in which a plaintiff may say, “I’ll never forgive him for what he did.” Unforgiving people hold grudges which, in time, become bitterness. To forgive is to give yourself the gift of freedom.
Why be kind? Why be tender-hearted? Why forgive? Because God in Christ forgave you. Whenever you are tempted to be unkind, hard-hearted, or unforgiving, consider Christ hanging on the cross. He paid the ultimate price for our sin so that you and I wouldn’t have to. Because we are in Christ, God forgives us and treats us kindly and tender-heartedly,
I want to be Ephesians 4:32,