How are we to reach a world where voices in the media and social media criticizing Christianity have morphed from constructive conversation into emotive smearing?
Paul’s words in Ephesians chapter 5, verses 1and 2 are key to the life God calls us to: Be imitators of God… and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…
Love is the model and framework for our lives. Paul illustrates this by pointing us to the way Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. When he was nailed to the cross, the most unjust act in history, we don’t find him cursing. Rather, we hear him pray, ‘Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing’.
In illustrating what love is in practice Paul, like any good teacher, tells us what love is not: But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people… (5:3).
People often confuse sex and love. Here Paul says that sexual immorality outside the marriage commitment is greedy and improper for God’s holy people. He observes that obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking … are out of place. We need to reveal who we are by daring to be holy, modelling the beauty of God’s character in this self-centered, vain-glorious world.
Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, Paul continues. Live as children of light … Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, … (5:8).
Light. God’s people are light in the Lord not because they now follow a new set of rules, but because of their new relationship with Jesus Christ. We are to shine out the light we are.
Our lifestyle is a vital part of our witness. If we aren’t progressing in God’s Word, we can hardly expect that anyone will want to find out what we believe. People who say there are no absolutes won’t be persuaded by logic, but they possibly will be if they see our lives being truly changed.
Be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise, Paul exhorts. FF Bruce notes that Paul’s readers are ‘a small minority, and because of their distinctive ways, their lives will be scrutinized by others: the reputation of the gospel is bound up with their public behavior. Hence the need for care and wisdom, lest the Christian cause should be inadvertently jeopardized by thoughtless speech or action on the part of Christians’ (The Epistles to the Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians, p.378).
And Paul continues, …making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Don’t be foolish. Understand what the Lord’s will is.
We all know how time flies. Paul knew this too: ‘Learn to use it well,’ he is saying. Seize the day – carpe diem!
We need to understand that although God has opened a door for men and women to enter the new era of his kingdom of light, the present age continues to be shrouded in darkness. There is so much evidence of this around us – the Russian aggressive war with Ukraine, the drugs and sex trafficking by racketeers, and injustices perpetrated even within courts of law, as a recent inquiry report in Australia has revealed.
Understand what the Lord’s will is, Paul writes. Our awareness of the suffering world surely stirs us to dig deep into the Bible so we can better understand God and his purposes. The Scriptures reveal that God hasn’t simply wound up the spring of his creation but is working all things towards the day when he will bring all injustice and suffering to account. For us to seize the day involves not only our living a new life as God’s people but also our ever-growing delight in knowing the Lord.
Now, if you are thinking that all this is heavy and burdensome and rather joyless, we need to meditate on Paul’s further words: Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit,… (5:18-20).
The Spirit of God is not a fluid with which we may be filled up. Instead of being under the influence of alcohol we are to be under the influence of God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Christ within us (see also Romans 8:9).
Alcohol can lead to drunkenness and debauchery, which dehumanizes us. We become the reverse of what we were meant to be; no longer the glory of God’s creation, made in his image, we become as the beasts. However, when the Spirit of God fills our lives, he awakens us to be as we were meant to be – evoking song and thanksgiving.
Singing. Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,… singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts… (5:19).
We may not realize that the earliest churches expressed their joy in music and singing. The Psalms were their hymn book. And, from the New Testament era, praise has not only been offered to God but also to Christ as God. One of the ways we worship God and build relationships is by singing to one another as well as to the Lord what we learn from the Scriptures.
Emotions are an important part of our makeup. When the Spirit of God is at work in us our singing will have the rich sound that comes from people who have a deep joy that comes from knowing the Lord.
Thanksgiving: Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (5:20).
Nothing brings about tension and division more than ingratitude. A thankful heart trusts God, not just in good times but also in tough times. This stands in sharp contrast to fatalism that results in a resigned acceptance of a situation. Thankful people know that in every situation the all-good sovereign Lord is working out his wonderful purposes for us – as we also read in Romans 8:28-30. God’s spirit-filled people who display their indebtedness to God’s grace are people who know peace, harmony and joy.
Here we have a response to the cacophony of voices of our day – voices of people who know not love and joy and peace and who experience the suffering and injustices of life without hope. They have yet to find the God who loves them with a greater love than they ever dreamed.
Carpe diem! Don’t be drunk with wine; don’t be afraid. Rather, seize the day and live wisely in a world dominated by self-interest. And be filled with the Spirit – singing songs and hymns with gratitude to the Lord in your heart.
A prayer. Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of your holy word. May it be a lantern to our feet, a light to our paths, and strength to our lives. Take us and use us to love and serve all people in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.