Our last Daily Devotion will be published on Saturday, May 30th.
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Ephesians 4:25 (NRSV)
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another….. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
It is interesting how the Lectionary can throw you just the right passage. As I read this passage in Ephesians, I was struck by the thought that we have much in common with the church at Ephesus. A note in my study Bible reads “The recipients would not be exhorted to avoid things they were not doing!” (The New Interpreters Study Bible). Our context may be different, but the words still ring true. We are living in a time of strife, not just from the Covid-19 pandemic, but also from the polarization that takes place in so many different ways in our society; racial polarization, ethnic polarization, urban/rural polarization, religious polarization, political polarization. Try as hard as we might, we are like the Ephesians. At times we can be consumed with bitterness, resentment or anger at family members, close friends, relatives, fellow church members. We all at times are convinced that “our way is the right way…..(and possibly the only way).” The writer of Ephesians has important words for us.
1. “We are members of one another.” There is ultimately no final separation between you and me. We are all united in the body of Christ, often with different callings, but still united.
2. “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need…” I sometimes despair that we have lost the idea of “building up, as there is need.” We are often so caught up in the importance of our own viewpoint that we lose sight of how our viewpoint may be affecting those around us.
3. “So that your words may give grace to those who hear.” How would my life, our lives, change if we stopped and prayed “May my words give grace to those who hear”? We have the capability to give grace to all whose lives we touch! What an incredible gift! And yet, how often do we unintentionally toss off words, or phrases, unfiltered as you will, that may bring hurt or pain to others.
4. “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice.” Wow! Sometimes I wonder if that is even possible in this time of intense polarization and demonization. Bitterness, slander, and anger are all around us in a 24/7 barrage from the media. It is so easy…
5. “and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” What does it mean to be kind to someone who disagrees with me? Can I put aside my own agenda so that I may be tenderhearted? And when I have been hurt, can I put that aside and forgive another person, even if they do not understand the anguish they have caused? Can I remember that we are all part of Christ’s body?
These are tall tasks and the need is as old as humankind. But I can take heart in knowing that God has given me the gift to “grace others with my words and be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving.” It is Christ within me who provides these gifts. And, I know that at times I will fail, and that God through Christ has forgiven me.
Gracious God, we thank you for your eternal wisdom and guidance on how best to relate to each other. Even as we take these words to heart, we know we cannot live perfectly. Help us to remember that we are all an important part of the Body of Christ, and to forgive others as we have been forgiven.
In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.