Where is your growing edge, beloved reader? Are there are of the admonitions below that the writer of Ephesians has listed that you need to work one? Let us gently go through each of them.
“So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:25)
There is outright lying, and there is conveniently or deliberately leaving out the truth. The boundaries of truth can be drawn nearly and widely; narrow boundaries, let say, are ones where only the absolute truth and nothing that is untrue is allowed in. Wider boundaries, let say, are ones half-truths and convenient truths are allowed to live around the edges, and absolute truth is sometimes and often intermingled with the shady truths that are around it. What are your boundaries like?
And to why is this important? When you live in community, a shady truth told in the moment can cause more problems than an absolute truth said with love and caring.
“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, . . “ (Verse 26)
Anger in and of itself is not wrong or bad. It what we do with the anger, how we express the anger, and how long we hold on to the anger that can cause problems. An anger expressed is a problem addressed, and finding the solution to lead to a better peace than there was before. Especially when done carefully in a supported community. As the writer of Ephesians cautions, do not let anger become a sin between you and others, and do not let it be as sin before God. Resolve what has caused the anger, and then let it go before it festers.
“ . . . and do not make room for the devil.” (Verses 27)
That prompting in your mind that tells you your anger is “justified” and should be expressed long, loud, and hard, while may not the “devil incarnate” is probably NOT a voice you should be heeding and following. If you give your anger over to God, the devil and any other unhelpful voice or idea will be squeezed out and silenced.
“Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.” (Verse 28)
Stealing, hmm. Just like the truth, stealing can happen under a variety of guises. Whatever is not rightfully yours (whether it be material goods, possessions, accolades etc) or that you have not gained from your own efforts and strength, you should not claim as yours. Attached to this admonition, the writer of Ephesians also says you should be responsible and accountable for how it is used.
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” (Verse 29)
You may be thinking by now, beloved reader, that there is very little “gentleness” in my commentary. These might seem like hard standards to live up to. Remember these instructions were given to a close knit community who interacted with each other daily. This was also a fledgling faith community and the writer of Ephesians knew that small offenses committed by one to another could do great harm. And that the larger community was watching to see how these Christians interacted with each other and with the large community. The onus on us present day is not much different. “Christianity” comes in different forms and is lived out in different ways. Verse 29 is just as, or more important now than then.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” (Verse 30)
Oh beloved reader! How we must grieve the Holy Spirit! I think the writer of Ephesians might have a little harsh in his thinking that grieving the Spirit of God is something we can avoid doing. I do know how we can not grieve the Divine. But our best efforts do not go unnoticed and unappreciated. The Holy Spirit is present and ever ready to guide us in making the best choices.
“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, . . .” (Verse 31)
Here we have the summing up, the exhortation to be better than what our baser human nature would lead us to.
“ . . . and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Verse 32)
This is the key to living in community. Knowing that we have failed each other, according to how God and Christ would have us live. But forgiving each other, and making amends to each other showing the mercy and compassion that God and Christ have shown to us.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Chapter 5, verses 1-2)
Selah! Beloved reader; may you be encouraged and not downhearted. None of us are perfect; but in our imperfection we understand the imperfection of others; and we can offer each other the sweetest gift of mercy, forgiveness and compassion. And it is those things that we help us to live in harmony. Again, selah!