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Saturday, June 11, 2016

Today’s Reading | Ephesians 4:17—5:2 

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.

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. (NRSV)

At its core, this passage is about repentance—turning from unhealthy habits to start out on a new path. It’s a pretty tall order. Could we really live day-to-day with “no evil talk [coming] out of [our] mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that [our] words may give grace to those who hear”? Could we really make such a radical shift in our own lives, not to mention in our workplaces, churches, schools, and governments?

Paul doesn’t give the Ephesians a clear plan—at least, not in these eighteen verses—but he leaves some clues.

Be angry but do not sin.

He doesn’t say “Never be angry!” or “Anger is evil!” but instead, “Go ahead, get angry, it’s natural—but think about how you act on that feeling. Use it to help others, not tear them down.” I know from experience that it never ends well when I ignore or suppress my anger, or sadness, or any emotion. Sometimes it’s a challenge to be honest but also express my feelings constructively. I love that Paul allows for that tension. He doesn’t ignore the complexity of the truth in favor of a neatly packaged, ear-pleasing solution.

We are members of one another.

We can’t make this daily transformation in isolation. I know I can’t. We are all one body. Paul isn’t laying out some arbitrary rule for behavior. He is reminding us that we are all connected—what I do affects you, and what you do affects me, and what we do affects our community, our church, our nation, our world. It’s quite practical. Of course, it isn’t easy, which means we need each other even more. We can’t do it alone.

God, give us the strength to be honest and loving in our speech and actions. Give us the courage to be vulnerable with one another, so that together we might turn from our old ways and reflect your love and grace. Amen.

Written by Jeremy Pfaff, Editorial Assistant

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