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Friday, February 21, 2014

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,

     When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
     he gave gifts to his people.”

(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 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. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. 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. 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. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (NRSV)

One of my most surprising discoveries when I went to college was the realization that I did not get to choose my friends. Like 80 percent of the men at Wabash College, I joined a fraternity. I spent most of my four years in college living in very close quarters with people I didn’t choose to be around—the fraternity chose them for me. I probably would not have chosen this same collection of individuals if I had been given the choice—and I’m quite sure many of them would not have chosen me. By the end of four years, however, the differences that existed among us and the many ways in which we were forced to learn to live together became one of the most formative influences in my life, and many of those men have become my most trusted friends. 

This is what the message of Ephesians 4 is about. The church is supposed to be a collection of brothers and sisters in Christ—brothers we do not get to choose—and we are all quite different. 

Many of us go to church hoping to find people who think just like we do—I am as guilty of this as anyone. We spend most of our time nurturing the relationships that are the easiest and the most automatic, and we distance ourselves from the people who, if it were up to us, wouldn’t be there at all. 

Luckily it’s not up to us. We have been given this particular group of sisters and brothers in Christ with whom to live our life of faith. And we can be incredibly surprised by the blessings God puts in our paths in the guise of people who are different from us. Who would’ve guessed that I would learn such a Christian lesson in my college fraternity! 

God, help me to embrace the blessings you have given me in the people I meet who are different from me, both in my church, and in my whole life. Thank you, Lord. Amen.    

Written by Adam H. Fronczek,
    Associate Pastor for Adult Education and Worship

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