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Eph 4,25-5,2 - Immitators of Christ

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Its good to be back from Holidays

and to see all of you here today.

We have enjoyed our time with Hedi’s parents,

and then we spent some time with friends

at their cottage.

It was a really good time to relax

from the daily routine,

play games with the kids

go fishing and find God also in nature.

Thank you for your prayers during our time away.

Immitators of God

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood

and speak truthfully to his neighbor,

for we are all members of one body. 

26 “In your anger do not sin”:

Do not let the sun go down

while you are still angry, 

27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

28 He who has been stealing

must steal no longer,

but must work,

doing something useful

with his own hands,

that he may have something to share

with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk

come out of your mouths,

but only what is helpful

for building others up

according to their needs,

that it may benefit those who listen.

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,

with whom you were sealed

for the day of redemption. 

31 Get rid of all bitterness,

rage and anger,

brawling and slander,

along with every form of malice.

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another,

forgiving each other,

just as in Christ God forgave you.

5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore,

as dearly loved children

2 and live a life of love,

just as Christ loved us

and gave himself up for us

as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

From this text,

and also from personal experience

we know that life

-         and especially the Christian life of discipleship –

isn’t always a walk in the park.

Sometimes it’s a real struggle.

And you can just feel

how the devil is having a hay day with us.

Today’s text deals – among other things –

with the problem of anger and bitterness,

and Paul tells the Ephesians

that the only thing that can change

our life around 

is that we seek to immitate Christ,

who gave himself up for us

as a fragrant offering to God.

Paul wants the Ephesians to make a connections

between the new relationship they have with Christ

and with each other in the church,

and specific behavior in real life.

Paul knew that you cannot be a Christian in isolation.

Our attitudes and behaviors affect

the entire body of Christ.

There were people from many different cultural

and religious backgrounds in the Ephesian church

and it must have been a real challenge

to keep the church focussed

on its mission and witness in the world.

As we revisit the letter to the Ephesians

it becomes clear that the effectiveness

of the witness of the church

depends on the unity of the body.

We are one body together

and Christ is the head of the body.

There is a rich diversity of gifts in the body,

to build up the community of faith.

But everything was not a bed of roses

in the Ephesian church.

There was also trouble!

The early followers of Christ came into the faith

from a variety of cultural and religious experiences Many had been Gentiles and Pagans

who came into the church

with a lot of baggage.

Some were undoubtedly business people

who made their financial gain

by misrepresenting themselves

and the products they were selling.

Some came from broken and shattered family situations

where abuse and violence was the order of the day. Some were poor people who stole from others

in order to eat or ware clothes.

Some were rough tough kinds of people

who dominated over others

with their coarse language and swearing.

Some were angry people

who were unable to control their rage,

and got themselves into all kinds of fights.

Some had become bitter through years and years

of bottled-up anger, frustration, and resentment.

And some had lived their lives slandering other people

and spreading bad rumors

about their fellow church members.

As the Good News of Jesus Christ spread through the land,

these kinds of people were attracted to the church

and became a part of the community of faith.

But old habits are hard to give up.

Breaking with their old habits and traditions

meant that they would seek to live their life

in the power of the Holy Spirit.

They would seek to pattern their lives after the life

Of Jesus Christ, their Lord and Master.

The Apostle warns them not to grieve the Holy Spirit

by ignoring the true Christian virtues

and continuing in their pagan vices.

When we look at the text more closely,

Paul uses this wonderful image

of putting off the old

and putting on the new.

Toward the end of this letter

he addresses several serious issues.

Let’s look at some of them…

1. Falsehood: each of you must put off falsehood

and speak truthfully to his neighbor,

for we are all members of one body. 

We say, “Well, of course,

we’re suppposed to always tell the truth.”

But isn’t it odd how often we speak a half-truth

or we twist a story just a little bit

to our advantage.

It’s so easily done,

and we think that it’s not a big deal.

But Paul gives us the reason why it’s important.

We are all members of one body.

It’s for the health and well being

of the Body of Christ.

2. Anger:  “In your anger do not sin”:

Do not let the sun go down

while you are still angry, 

27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

And

31 Get rid of all bitterness,

rage and anger,

brawling and slander,

along with every form of malice.

Let me state right away

that anger in itself is not a sin.

In the Old Testament we often see a very angry God,

who vows to wipe out his entire people

because they have disobeyed him.

But, this is not the dominant picture of God

that the Bible shows us.

Again and again

God’s unending love and forgiveness

replaces His wrath and anger

towards unfaithful Israel.

When we read the prophets,

we quickly realize that some of them

seem to have had some serious issues

with anger.

At times, Jesus was angry with his disciples

 who didn’t understand his mission.

“Get behind me Satan,” he said to Peter at one time. Another time he went on a rampage in the temple

driving out money changers and sales people.

Paul in fact teaches us to be angry.

The original Greek translation says,

          “Being angry, do not sin.”

In other words,

Anger is assumed.

We are human.

At times we will get angry.

But, when you are angry, do not sin.

Anger is a powerful human emotion

that God has built into us.

Anger is there for a reason.

It is a natural defense mechanism

that kicks in

when we are threatened or hurt.

The problem is that God has created some of us

With a very short fuse,

or like somebody said to me,

“I have a very small cooling system.”

The problem with many of us,

just like the people in the early church

is that our anger is often uncontrolled

and we let it escalate

to the point of sinning.

Paul says, “In your anger do not sin”

that is,

we must deal with the cause of our anger.

So often our anger is misdirected

as the following ILL shows:

There is a cartoon where the wife comes home

from work and says to her husband:

"Honey, I had a lousy day at work,

so I'll just yell at you for a while."

How many of you have experienced that before?

You have a problem with the boss,

and you come home and take it out on the family.

Meanwhile, they are scratching their heads saying,

“What’s with you?”

ILL: A little girl was showing a friend

around her new house.

"This is the kitchen,

here's my bedroom;

there's the den.

Do you have a den in your house?" 

"No, we don't", replied her friend

"My dad just growls all around the house."

Growling all over the house is one way

To express anger.

But, not everybody expresses their anger

by “being a Bear”

and I’m not talkin’ about a Teddy Bear

(if you know what I mean).

There are also those among us

who swollow their anger

until it eats them up from the inside.

Unexpressed anger turns into resentment

and bitterness and often leads to addictions

which is a way of running away from

our problems.

In your anger do not sin, says Paul.

The best way to avoid falling into sin

when we are angry

is to deal with it at the source.

And as we address the issue that is causing us anger

we must remember that love

and restoration of the relationship

is the ultimate goal.

In order to keep the unity of the spirit

it is important that anger

is not allowed to fester

and destroy the relationship.

“Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”

There is a sense of urgency in these words.

Because, when we do not deal with our anger,

we ultimately hurt ourselves

as well as the other person.

 

ILL: But sometimes we are like these two little brothers.

Harry and James had finished supper

and were playing until bedtime.

Somehow, Harry hit James with a stick,

and tears and bitter words followed.

Charges and accusations were still being exchanged

as mother prepared them for bed.

The mother instructed,

"Now James, before you go to bed

you're going to have to forgive your brother,

because the Bible says,

‘Do not let the sun go down

whwn you are still angry."

James was quiet for a moment, and then he replied,

“Well OK, I'll forgive him tonight,

but if I don't die overnight,

he'd better look out in the morning."

Not letting the sun go down on one's anger (4:26)

is about dealing with anger:

being honest with with ourselves

and with the other person,

and to do it in a helpful way.

When we allow unresolved anger to stay with us

we give the devil a foothold

that is – we allow him a foot in the door.

It doesn’t take long and we become an angry person,

full of resentment, bitterness

and even hate and depression.

The funny thing is that after a few days

we don’t remember what we were so mad about .

We just remember that we are angry.

As we read these verses from Ephesians,

Paul invites us to look at our own anger.

What do you do with your anger? 

Do you take it out on others in a hostile manner? 

Or do you let it eat you up on the inside?

Jesus teaches us that we can use that angry energy

          And use to God’s glory

                   If we deal with our anger

                             In a healthy way.

3. Let’s move on to the next one: Stealing.

We have to remember that Paul is talking here

to the community of faith that has made a covenant

of sharing their possessions with one another

(They had all things in common).

When we  think of stealing,

the first thing that comes to mind

is something like shoplifting,

or stealing someone’s bike

and stuff like that.

For Paul, not sharing what you had,

like food, shelter, money, spiritual gifts, and so on,

with the community of faith,

is the same thing as stealing.

You must work,

doing something useful with your hands –

not in order to stay off social assistance

or even to get yourself a nice savings account,

but, so that you may have

something to share with those in need.

The focus again is the health and wellbeing,

And the unity of the Body of Christ.

Paul would ask us today, “Are you stealing from God and Christ’s Body by withholding your material and spiritual gifts?”

To immitate God means to share

          all the gifts that he has given us

                   and not to hold anything back.

4. Unholesome talk. Do not let any unwholesome talk

come out of your mouths,

but only what is helpful

for building others up

according to their needs,

that it may benefit those who listen.

Let me ask you,

“Is all of your talking responsible,

wholesome,

seasoned with love and compassion

for others?”

          Do you seek to build up the image

                   Of Christ’s Body by what you say?

Is your conversation helpful?

Does it build others up according to their need? Does it benefit all those who listen?

 

5. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,

with whom you were sealed

for the day of redemption. 

We grieve the Holy Spirit when we disappoint Christ

through our selfish behavior

that destroys community.

When we quench the spirit,

we refuse to give him room in our lives

to work in and through us

to the Glory of God.

The Spirit wants to bear the fruits of love in our lives.

 

6. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another,

forgiving each other,

just as in Christ God forgave you.

A fundamental component of our life together

As the Body of Christ

Is forgiveness.

Forgiveness means letting go of

that which we hold against people,

and embracing them as God has embraced us

in Jesus Christ.

Kindness and compassion

are the marks of a forgiving spirit.

When we take the immitation of Christ seriously

in our lives and in the church

"the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"

will grow.

And the world will know that we are Christians

by our love.

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