|Series Theme: Meditations in Ephesians|
Meditation No. 37
Meditation Title: Changed Lives (1)
Eph 4:25-28 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 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.
So here we start with a very obvious ‘link word' – “Therefore”, i.e. as a consequence of what I've just said, do this. So, let's make sure we follow the flow of Paul's thinking. In this chapter, in verses 1 to 6 he spoke about unity, then in verses 7 to 16 the body that has been blessed with ministries to bring us to maturity and stability. In verses 17 to 19 he reminded us of the way of unbelievers and then in verses 20 to 24 he spoke about the new approach to life that we now had by having a change of mind, of attitude, of outlook. The ‘ Therefore ' that we now start with, thus says, “Because you are united with Christ and have a new life, here then are practical ways you should live out those new lives. He gives us a list of very practical ways of living.
He starts off, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.” The reference to ‘neighbour' here is clearly a reference to Christian brothers or sisters, because of the reference to the body, the church. Lying in whatever form has no place in the Christian community. Truth is the currency of our lives. Truth comes up a lot in the New Testament. For example, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor 13:6). Being a community of love means we will also be a community of truth, especially when it comes to speech. This was well and truly ingrained in Paul: “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.” (2 Cor 13:8). Earlier here in Ephesians he said, “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (v.15). John knew the same thing: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 Jn 3:18). Many of the New Testament references are to the truth of the Gospel, but many are about us living truthful lives. May we heed them!
But he continues, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Truth is about mind and intellect, anger is about emotions. Note that he doesn't say, don't get angry, for he recognises that they will be things that upset us but, he says, don't let that anger go on, don't go to bed without resolving it. If you allow anger to fester, he says, you will give the enemy a chance to come in and make use of it to upset you and the body, we suggest. If you have an unresolved conflict which cause you to be stirred up every time you think about it, you need to resolve it with the Lord because it a) makes you vulnerable to enemy attack and b) stops you enjoying the peace and joy that should be yours in Christ. Anger is often a form of defensiveness when we feel slighted. Put down your pride and give it over to the Lord and ask Him for His grace to enable you to let it go. If someone has upset you, pray for them and bless them (Mt 5:44 ). Do it quickly before the enemy takes the opportunity.
Then he continues with a third practical application of living out the Christian life: “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.” So, we've moved from the mind (truth), to emotions (anger) and now to a very practical issue of rightly observing others rights to their own possessions. You ‘own' something if you have made it, bought it, or been given it. It is yours for you to do with as you will (staying within the bounds of the law). The other side of that coin is that you may not take that which belongs to someone else, whether they are the government, a business or an individual. If something belongs to them, you have no right to take what belongs to them, whatever the situation. We very often think of ‘stealing' as the activity of a burglar or a major criminal, and yet many people quietly help themselves to their employer's property, small though it may be, often justifying it by, “well they can afford it.” That is not the point; it is still stealing. Videos increasingly have warnings that copying videos is a crime. Likewise the music industry reminds people that downloading music from the Internet is often illegal. Each of these things attest to the truth that we live in a society where the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal”, is being ignored. If you are a Christian you should respect other people's property rights.
Thus we find ourselves with three very practical and understandable issues here, issues about the right way to live out the Christian life, the way to be righteous. If you offend in any one of these three things you are being unrighteous. The basic truth to be observed here is that being a Christian has very specific outworkings. The Christian life is to be a righteous life and there is clear content to that statement. Paul gives us good examples for everyday living. If we have not observed these things, we would do well to face up to them. Seeking forgiveness may need to be the first step.