Invitation to a Modest Moral Inventory, Part 1
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Step 4 of the 12-step program created by Alcoholics Anonymous reads: "Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." Those who follow the 12 steps on the way to recovery often spend lots of time in thought and prayer as they take stock of their moral shortcomings and defects. They seek to be honest with themselves in a way they have never been before, not to beat themselves up, but so that they might confess their failures and, where necessary, make amends.
Ephesians 4:31 invites us to modest moral inventory, modest in the sense that it isn't as searching, deep, and broad as Step 4 in AA. This verse lists five specific attitudes or behaviors that we should put away, concluding with a blanket statement about "every form of malice." Yet, even the relatively short list of wrongs in verse 31 can help us see ourselves more clearly so that we might live more fully as new people in Christ.
My suggestion is that you take the list of wrongs in Ephesians 4:31 and use it as a magnifying glass to examine your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you things you need to see. If you recognize one of these shortcomings in yourself, take time to confess it to the Lord and to seek forgiveness. Then, ask the Lord if there is anything you need to do differently or any amends you need to make.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Bitterness: Are you holding on to bitterness? Have you allowed wrongs done to you to remain in your heart, leaving the sour taste of unforgiveness? Rage and anger: Are you prone to excessive anger? Do you express your anger in ways that hurt others or even yourself? Does your anger keep you from having healthy relationships with colleagues, your boss, neighbors, or family members? Brawling and slander: Do you use words to hurt others, both in their presence and behind their backs? Do you tend to say things at work that put down your coworkers? Do you say things that, later on, you wish you could retract? Every form of malice: Are there other actions or attitudes in your life that cause pain and division in your relationships?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for making me new in Christ. Thank you for the call and opportunity to put off my old self and put on my new self. Lord, I know there are pieces of my old self still hanging around me. Some of these show up on the list of Ephesians 4:31. So, as I take an inventory of my life, I offer these moral failures to you, asking you not only to forgive me, but also to help me take off these parts of my old self so I can put on my new self more completely. Amen.
Moving Beyond Mediocrity
This article is part of our series, Moving Beyond Mediocrity. How often in your daily life do you think, “I wish I could do better”? It’s the feeling you get when you realize you aren’t really trying. Your job, your family, even your hobbies: they are worth working harder. But what does it take to move beyond mediocrity? How do you quit using your education, your upbringing, your circumstances, even your faith, as an excuse to keep you from doing your best? Join us as we discuss giving it our all in our workplaces and our homes, in our communities and our churches, for the common good and for the glory of God. Also, consider inviting others to join you by sharing these stories via email, Facebook, Twitter, or networks you are part of.