Ephesians 4: 25 – 5: 2
Are you a part of Facebook or Twitter? Perhaps you participate in other social media on your computer. Have you seen the divisions between people online? Have you felt the biting words? Are you bothered by the judgment by others toward beliefs that are contrary to their own? Many people have left social media platforms because the bickering was just too upsetting.
There is so much division in the world. In the United States, we seem to have many opposing views with the major one in the news being between the major political parties of Democrats versus Republicans, just about down the middle. Pro-Trump versus Anti-Trump; Pro-Biden versus Anti-Biden. Then there is division by color and ethnicity. In Great Britain, there was – and still is – Pro-Brexit versus Anti-Brexit. In India, there is the plight of the farmers objecting to profound changes the government has instilled on how they do business. I’ll just stop there as I am sure you have the idea.
These divisions certainly work their way into our churches (and in synagogues, mosques, and temples) as churches are made up of all kinds of people, and those people reflect the opinions, viewpoints and movements going on outside the church.
I admit that I considered skipping this portion of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but then I recalled the divisions going on in the world and in our churches. Let’s look at some guidelines that Paul gives us for proper attitudes and behavior. In an over-arching statement, he writes:
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” [Ephesians 4: 22-24. NIV]
This verse is the foundation for the segment that is to follow in Ephesians as indicated by the “Therefore” in verse 25. But first, note that Paul says something quite similar in Romans 12: 1-2 as he again calls on us to be completely changed. He used the Greek word that biologists use for a caterpillar changing into a butterfly – metamorphosis. Paul calls on believers in both Romans and here in Ephesians to make a complete change from their life without God, like from a caterpillar that I heard one nature show on television describe as a “walking intestine” to a beautiful, fluttering butterfly, feeding off the sweet nectar of flowers. From a leaf-hugger confined to the earth, looking for where the next leaf is to determine its next meal, to be completely changed into a creature of the wind and able to fly for miles, if necessary. One wouldn’t even suspect these are the same creatures if they were set side-by-side. That’s how different they are – and that’s how different Paul is calling on us to be from the ground-hugger of a life not pleasing to God to a life that is full of beauty and Godly possibilities.
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” [v. 25]
This is a call for believers to not be deceitful with others, but to be honest. My fourth-grade teacher told her class when she left the room for a moment, “You are what you are when you’re not being watched.” “Integrity” means that what people see in your life is the same person as on the inside. A part of adulthood is leaving behind the untruths that try to make yourself look good to others and to learn to just be your honest self. This entails loving yourself and accepting yourself. I expect I will touch on this a little when I discuss marriage relationships in Ephesians 5. I hope I remember . . . .
“ ‘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.” [v. 26-27]
Some couples who take this literally (but miss the point) just prepare to stay up all night after they’ve had an argument rather than apologize or take steps to reduce the strong feelings of the argument! Hmm. This passage doesn’t say that you should never be angry. If you’re human, you will get angry now and again. The first part of the verse above – “In your anger do not sin” – is a quote from Psalm 4: 4. It is assuming you will get angry. What is important with anger is to not do wrong amid the anger. Remember my definition of sin I’ve used in earlier blogs? “Sin is anything that interferes with your relationship with God, with others or [edited from “and” that I wrote earlier] with yourself.” Use that definition to determine if you’ve sinned in your anger. My wife and I have been married almost 49 years. When we are having a “creative discussion,” we do not belittle the other person, call them names – and we certainly don’t strike each other. Ever. To do so would be to sin – to do that which displeases God. A little side note: I have heard all my life that Jesus was angry at the money changers in the Temple. People often used it to justify their own anger. However, I looked at all four scripture passages in the Gospels, and nowhere does it say Jesus was angry. He certainly acted resolutely with strong feeling and “with zeal,” but it never said he was angry. I just learned something today. Perhaps you have, too.
“He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” [v. 28]
This would seem obvious but look at the outcome of working. It wasn’t that he would feed or house or clothe himself. Perhaps that was just understood. But the usefulness of working is also that the worker would have something to share with those in need.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” [v. 29]
There are those on social media who just pass along various “memes” [pictures with some kind of cute or seemingly meaningful saying]. They never say how they are doing or what’s going on in their lives; they just forward or “share” these memes. Most often, these memes are sayings that divide people from one another. According to US Intelligence reports, there were people from other countries who would develop these memes to exacerbate the differences among the citizens, especially during our elections in 2016 and 2020. As you meet people, live with people, or talk to people on social media, look for opportunities to build others up according to their needs (and not what you think their needs should be).
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. [v. 31]
I have zero understanding how, when some people disagree with someone in public life or on social media, they can carry that disagreement out in name calling, belittling, or even threatening people’s lives. Get rid of those feelings and reactions. When I was a child and a teen, I sometimes lashed out in anger. When I was nine, I threw a dart into my brother’s foot. And when I was about twelve or thirteen – which would make my brother eighteen or nineteen – he said something to me as I was cleaning my fingernails with my small pocket knife (not a Crocodile Dundee knife, but still . . .). I flicked the knife at him as he was going around the corner of the hallway, and the knife stuck in the wall, vibrating from the force of the throw. I knew then that I needed to get my anger under control – and that’s what I worked on and accomplished in my early teen years.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” [v. 32]
Now Paul is coming to a close. In churches, why is there so much disagreement and so often a lack of love? Are the ones who seem to be angry all the time just not regenerate [being made new] in Christ? Paul calls believers to be kind, to feel with the pain and joy of others, and to forgive each other. Always, not sometimes. The standard to use to measure if you’re forgiving others enough is “just as in Christ God forgave you.”
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” [5: 1-2]
Live like God. Strive for that same self-giving, caring-for-others “agape” love that God has for us and expresses to us through his Son.
Believers really need to understand these truths and try to live up to these standards. To show the world what a godly life looks like, believers would do well to follow Paul’s admonishments and encouragement as presented above to show the world (the non-believers) who God is and the difference for the better he could make in their lives.
Categories: How Can the Bible Relate to Us Today?