In our Sunday morning Bible class we have been working through the epistles of the New Testament. This is an overview of each of the letters. We spend some time in the historical setting of the epistle and then look at a few of the key verses. This has not been an in depth study of each epistle. We are currently looking at the "prison letters" of Paul - Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians.
In writing to the Ephesians, Paul spends time talking about Christian relationships and how to go about living each day with one another. He writes, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:1-3 ESV). These are some powerful words for us to listen to in our lives - and powerful words for us put into practice in our lives.
Walk in the manner worthy of the called wot which you have been called - live each day, in the relationships that you have been given by the Lord in way of Christ, not in the way of the world. That is a huge challenge for each of us. It is so easy to walk in the way of the world instead of in the way of the Christ. After all, our natural inclination is to look out for the "self" and when we do that, we are tempted to put down, tear apart and destroy the other people in our lives. Why? Because that is our nature to do so - the sinful nature wants to show itself. Think of how easy it is to speak evil about someone rather than speaking good about them. Think about how easy it is to find fault and how hard it is to build up. Think of how you might have spoken words of gossip about a situation when you really weren't sure if what you have heard through the grapevine or from another person was even true. That is not walking in the way worthy of the calling you have received.
Instead we are called to live in humility and gentleness, being patient with one another. That is a challenge for us as well. To be humble - wow! So often humility is the last thing on our mind. We think to ourselves that we are better than others (where is the humility in that?) and look down upon others. Being patient is so difficult. We ask for people to be patient with us, giving us time to grow and learn in the situation, but how often are we patient with others? Guided by the Spirit, we are called to humility and gentleness.
As we continue reading in Ephesians, we learn about the life of faith that we are to live each day. One verse that I think we overlook goes like this: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Eph. 4:29 ESV) I would like to challenge each of us to make this verse a guide for how we talk to one another and about one another. I do believe it would do three things: 1) change how we talk to and about one another (it would get rid of idle gossip and help to eliminate hurt feelings and angry situations) and 2) would build up the body of Christ, and 3) would make for a stronger witness to those outside of the body of Christ.
Why am I writing about this? Is this in response to what someone has said or done? No it isn't and yes it is. No it isn't in response to any one person or one thing that has been said. Yes it is in the sense that so often it is this very thing that causes people to not want to listen to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As someone listens to how one Christian speaks about another Christian, the one listening says to himself, "If that is how they treat one another, why would I want anything to do with Jesus Christ?" The words we say and the way we say them truly does affect the message we are proclaiming.
Speak only that which is good for building up - that it may give grace to those who hear. We find some wonderful words of God in this letter to the church in Ephesus. Now the challenge. How will I talk today?