You are a saint, are you living that life?  – Monday, 30th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 4:32-5:8

You are a saint, are you living that life?  – Monday, 30th week in ordinary time – Ephesians 4:32-5:8

While we may romanticize personal transformations, follow up is often hard work. The Gentile Christians had gone through a personal conversion and the author to the Ephesians not only affirms but insists (4:17) that they not live their former lives, like the Gentiles were. Living the life that the Gentiles do, has led them to a loss of sensitivity to their conscience (4:19) abandoning their very selves in favour of impurity. This happens to the best of us when we permit our spiritual lives to spiral out of control. Then, every sin is not a sin because we, and not God, becomes the defining factor of what is and what is not a sin. But the Ephesian converts are now clothed anew in Christ(4:24) and hence the author presents them with a new set of rules for a new life. 

The text of today is preceded with very practical demands for a healthy spiritual relationship with Christ. But these are clearly demands. Verse 31 says “Put away” all that is negative; wrath, slander, anger, wrangling and malice, in order that you can be kind to another, tenderhearted and forgiving. 

Much of life is where your focus is. If someone is on your hit list, they can never be on your prayer list. So, Paul tells us how to deal with it. “Let (it) be put away from you.” The first step in that process should be prayer, because bitterness is sticky stuff that resists clean up. We need God’s help to be able to forgive our opponent and to let go of our victim-posture. We need God to heal our wounds so that we find it easier to forgive. Sadly, much of our energy is spent dissipated on negativity rather than what we could achieve if we put on the mind of Christ. 

The author to the Ephesians accepts that a change in one’s character is not a matter of waving a wishing wand. Efforts need to made and hence he says “be imitators of God.” In order to imitate one has to observe intently. Paul is asking us, “on whom have you fixed your eyes?” Paul does not say, “Think about God” or “Admire God” or “Adore God,” though those are all important Christian duties. This is a call to practical action, going beyond our inner life with God and that’s why he says be imitators.

The world today chooses its own heroes to imitate; Paul gives us God. He has not given us something easy, for God is love and in imitating God in Christ we are called to love and give of ourselves. Notice that this line flies in the face of everything that the world propagates. The world demands that we receive, Christ calls us to give and not just any giving, but the way he gave, a total self-giving like a sacrifice which pleased the Father. We often think we could lay down our life in a dramatic way to show our love for others. But God often calls us to lay down our life little by little, in small coins (as it were) instead of one large payment  but it is laying down our lives nonetheless. 

Paul qualifies his call to be imitators; he says be imitators  of God as beloved children and live in love. Children are natural imitators; they often do just what they see their parents or other adults do. When we act according to our nature as children of God, we will imitate Him.

Now that he has settled the method, he wants to deal with the madness that we call living. Living a life in Christ demands the renunciation of ALL sin. One can’t assuage one’s conscience by meriting one’s spiritual life with ‘a few while lies.’ A lie is a lie! The Bible is not colour coded. So even a few off coloured jokes or remarks (he speaks of obscene, silly, vulgar talk) is not even remotely encouraged. Spend this time, says the author to the Ephesians, in thanksgiving. In short, if you must say something let it build your spiritual life. We must notice the theme of the moral appeal. It isn’t “avoid these things so that you can be a saint.” Rather, it is “you are a saint; now live in a manner fitting for a saint.” The constant moral appeal of the New Testament is simply this: be who you are in Jesus.

Finally, Paul says do not be deceived with empty words. The empty words were the lies that those who do not live in God’s light spread. This was the world the Ephesian Christians once lived in, the world of darkness (5:7) but now in the Lord they live as children of the light 

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