There are those kinds of weeks when I pine for a simpler plan of action. Things in life can often get so complicated, confusing and frustrated. This Sunday we completed our reading of the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and here is where I found some relief.
This chapter focuses on our Call to follow Christ’s example of love and reconciliation. It is when we as individuals live in this bond of love and reconciliation that we are equipped and joined together as a church to be the body of Christ.
The first part of the chapter acknowledged both the diversity of our gifts but also our need to grow up and mature in our faith. Paul says in verses 14, “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” “Tossed to and fro”, hey that is a feeling I can understand. Paul goes on in verse 15 to say, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” And it is in this second part of that chapter, which we read this Sunday, that Paul gives us followers some very practical and specific ways to act so that we may mature in our faith, some simple and basic steps that we can take to help us through the complications, confusion, and frustration.
In last half of this chapter Paul calls us to “speak the truth to our neighbors” (v25), to “labor and work honestly” so we are able to “share with the needy” (v28), to speak in a way that helps and encourages others to mature in their faith (v29) and to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (v32).
What strikes me so strongly about this particular part of chapter 4 is both simplicity of the instructions that Paul gives and their timeless nature which makes these ways of acting out our faith equally applicable to today.
For example, to speak the truth to our neighbour or to speak in a way that helps and encourages others to mature in their faith, can apply equally to the daily face to face conversations of Paul’s day, as it does to the telephone and email correspondences of our daily life. As we mature in our faith, there becomes less and less room for lies, deceit, or in any act that would discourage another from following the path to Christ. Paul’s words from two thousand years ago should ring in our ears every time we pick up the phone, or push the send button.
Also equally valid today is Paul’s reminder the reason we are to seek honest labor and work so that we are able to share with those in need. For me the reminder points to the truth that any and all ability we have to labour or work comes from God and so it is our responsibility to share the profits of those labours with those who lack the same ability. God has so freely shared with us and so we freely share with others. Again, even after two centuries the simple imperative to share from abundance rings true.
And finally, Paul restates that we are just being called to treat others in the same way God has treated us first through Jesus Christ. He does this when he says “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (v32). Paul is not just making this stuff up for the sake of peace; he has derived these simple guides found in this chapter on the very example of Jesus, himself.
I know there are times when things seem so complicated. When trying to determine what being a Christian means in 2006, in our life, in our home and in our work. It is always difficult and confusing at best. Today we are reminded of some of the simple and timeless actions that make it easier for us to know where to put our foot down to end up on the correct path, the path that takes us closer to Christ. Yet, we are also humbly reminded of the wonderful and incredible example we are each called to follow, Jesus Christ.
The Rev’d Rob Park