Friday, September 9, 2011

Ephesians 4: another straight line from theology to life

As he did in Romans 12, and did once again in Galatians 6, Paul in Ephesians 4 draws a straight line from Christian theology to Christian living: "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" and "you must no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking".

Paul calls me to be filled with the Spirit that unites Jew and Gentile and breathes love, humility and patience through the Body. Unity of the Spirit is everything: "one body, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." How mankind has exchanged the power of love for the love of power: "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer!" was Hitler's cynical, pragmatic misappropriation of Ephesians 4:5. Even Samuel De Champlain, a true Christian humanist who actually succeeded ever so briefly in IMPROVING the lives of Native Americans and humbly living with them as equals, adhered to the 17th century French maxim of "La Foi, Le Loi, Le Roi" - One Faith, One Law, One King.

But unity does not require uniformity, in fact it excludes it. Paul goes on to say that "to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it", and that we all have been given different gifts. But the goal of the gifting isn't radical individualism, it is the promotion of godly unity.

In vs. 8-9, Paul also gets all cosmic again - saying how Christ ascended to the lower, earthly regions and ascended higher than all the heavens, filling the whole universe, leading captives in his train, giving gifts to men like a returning conqueror. One wonders if somehow the United Church "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" is in some cosmic way, unseen by us, a sign of holy conquering and the cue for unseen powers to bow the knee to the One God and Father.

And here's another heavy thought: in vs. 15 Paul describes Christ as the Head. I know that He has born the sorrows of us all, every toe, pancreas, tendon and capillary, and that He understands and comforts us in our afflictions. Imagine sin and suffering as pain signals sent from every individual nerve ending to the brain (the Head). On Him were laid the afflictions of us all. Amazing love, how can it be......

Three other thoughts about Ephesians 4:

- If I "have a continual lust for more" for anything other than the Spirit and the Word, it is a sign of darkness and spiritual separation from God. It is a dying canary in the mineshaft.

- "In your anger do not sin." Paul knew a thing or two about going too far in his anger, and going just far enough. Anger is another canary, and not always in a bad way. It lets me know that something is wrong and needs to be changed. What that is - my attitude or another's - is a matter of discernment and wisdom. Why give the devil a foothold when I'd rather have mine (in Jesus' name) on his stinking, lying neck.

- "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, except what is helpful for building others up." There are few things that God specifically says he really hates, but one of them is gossip. When I practice or tolerate it, I grieve the Spirit.  

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