Rigorous Faith in Turbulent Times, Part 11
Living Together – Ephesians 4:25-32
Guest posting by Lew Worrad
(This article can also we found on our website
at http://www.bethelkingston.com under the tab called "Blog")
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
In some senses, Believers are a product of the environment in which they are reared. In North America, that translates into a strong focus on the individual. Our society has been described as “Narcissistic”, “Egoistic”, “Individualistic” and “Libertarian”. Even our theological terminology reflects our individualism. Salvation is “personal”. So is sanctification. And each believer is a priest [priesthood of the believer].
It is good, at some point, to remind ourselves that in the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul is writing to a church or maybe churches. This latter thought, churches, gives some explanation for the fact that there are no specific personal greetings in this letter. Paul is talking to churches. True, churches are made up of believers and so what Paul says has personal application. But, to view a church as a mere collective, a group of individuals is a mistake. The church is more than a collective, it is a community. As was noted last week, New Creations [believers] are part of a New Community. Their development is not merely personal, it is communal. In fact their personal development is very much affected by the communal input. Paul has emphasized this though of interrelatedness throughout the 4th chapter - what we do has an effect on others. What they do has an effect on us. It is not personal, it is mutual. This is what Bonhoeffer had in mind when he wrote Life Together (by the way, it too was written to a church exhibiting rigorous faith in the turbulent times of Nazi Germany).
The text, Eph. 4:25-32, gives us instruction as to how the New Creations and the New Community are to put on the Image of God or at least be conformed to His likeness. In this brief little text Paul makes four references to our relationship to others: vs. 25, 28, 29 and 32. In this text we will note 6 things that will make your church a better church and make you a better person in the process.
1] Authenticity [vs. 25-27] Put off falsehood. True, it implies speaking the truth. But it also implies ‘walking the talk’ – there’s no room for spiritual games-playing.
2] Appropriate Anger [vs. 26] Most believers are angry at the wrong things. There are things to be angry about. And, the church should be angry about those things. But, anger is a dangerous thing and needs to be monitored very closely. Rational Anger, Controlled Anger, watching out for the Devil!
3] Generosity [vs. 28] The church is a place for giving. Giving of every kind! As C. Truett Cathy says… time, talent, tithe and touch. That about covers it all!
4] Encouragement [vs. 29] It is the Devil who comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. It is the believer and the church who have the responsibility to repair the damage. Encouragement is a powerful tool.
5] Spiritual Sensitivity [vs. 30] In the clamour of the world in which we live, we need to be listening for the ‘still small voice of God’ and the voice of the Shepherd.
6] Forgiveness [vs. 32] There are all sorts of behaviours that come as a result of being wronged. They certainly are injurious to self and surely injurious to the community. But, in this whole text, the New Creation is becoming like the Creator. Christ, therefore, is the model. He forgave. He loved and He forgave.
One can only imagine how attractive a church bearing these characteristics would be. Or for that matter, how attractive a believer bearing these characteristics would be!
In response to Paul’s teaching in this text there are three questions we can ask:
1] As I look at my life through this grid of characteristics, where do I need to improve?
2] As I look at my church through this grid of characteristics, what can I do to help my church improve?
3] As I look at my relationship with other believers through this grid of characteristics, what can I do to help my fellow believers improve?
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact firstname.lastname@example.org