Second Reading: Ephesians 4:30-5:2
A Life of Love, A Life of Offering
4:30 Don't make the Holy Spirit sad. He lives in you and prepares you right now for the return of the Lord in glory. 31 Take away all bitter feelings, anger, shouting and evil comments about others. 32 Instead, treat others with kindness and love. Forgive each other. After all, this is the way God treats you!
5:1 Act like God does, just like his children should. 2 Live a life of God's love, like Jesus did. He loved us and offered himself to God for us, like a sweet smelling incense that a priest uses in sacrifice.
4:30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, (dark) passion, rage, shouting, and slander be raised away from you (along) with every other evil. 32 Act kindly with each other, treating (each other) with affection, grace yourselves just as God has graced you.
5:1 Become mimics of God as (his) beloved children, 2 and walk (throughout life) in (his) love, just as CHRIST loved us and surrendered himself for us, an offering and sacrifice of pleasant odor to God.
4:30 "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." In this verse, the Holy Spirit was the seal impressed upon the spirit of the person, as an official seal made an impression on wax. In other words, the Spirit changed the person, as the seal changed the wax. More important, as the seal was used in government and commerce as a sign of ownership, the Spirit revealed the person as the "property" of God; he or she was not in control. And, as the person lived in the Spirit, he or she looked forward to the "day of redemption," the return of the Lord in glory.
4:32 "grace yourselves just as God has graced you" How do Christians treat themselves as God treats them? With compassion and forgiveness. In other words, the community should be built on God's grace and the gifts of the Spirit, especially with these two virtues.
As in the past few readings from the letter to the Ephesians, the author compared a shameful lifestyle with that of the Spirit. A life of rage, bitterness, and shouting and slander tore down the community. Such petty backbiting "saddened" the power that was the cause and the growth of the early Christian movement: God's Spirit. (Notice, how the author personalized the Spirit; such language helped lead to the formulation of the doctrine on the Trinity.) Instead, the author encouraged his audience to live the life of the Spirit and treat each other with respect and true affection. In other words, to treat each other as God had treated them.
The words of imitation or mimicking simply reinforced the notion. But the author took the analogy into a new area, that of worship. The early community believed its worship joined with that of the risen Lord in heaven. His love led to his passion and death. Both were one act of worship, a self-sacrifice that was like smoky incense that rose to heaven (the vision of smoke rising heavenward during sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem represented the petition of the offering party.) But, it was not only the gathering of the community in worship that imitated and joined with the Lord. Indeed, the Christian lifestyle was an act of worship that united the believer to the Master. Unlike the bitterness of the clique infighting, a life of love raised the believer beyond the terrestrial realm to that of the angels.
The challenge of in-fighting vs. love is as acute today as it was two thousand years ago in Ephesus. Those who love bind the community together and raise it to another level. While those that bicker...well, you're seen the result.
How have you show love and respect to your fellow Christians, as well as neighbors? How have you built up the community? How has such love helped your prayer life and worship?