Ephesians 4:25-5:2 “Imitators”
One of my favorite subjects in school was history. Not only is the study of history completely devoid of any algebraic equations or geometric theorems, but it is also filled with people and stories from which we can learn so much.
History provides us with many role models—like those we discussed a few moments ago with the children. These roll models give us glimpses of characteristics that we want to have in our lives. Some of the historical figures that come to mind are: Sacagawea, the Indian girl that helped the Lewis and Clark expedition; Abraham Lincoln, George Washington Carver, who revolutionized agriculture in the South, Susan B. Anthony, who fought for women’s rights, Teddy Roosevelt, who was a major force behind the National Park system; Chief Joseph, a great Native American chief, Rosa Parks, who was instrumental in the civil rights movement, Caesar Chavez, who founded the United Farm Workers and marched for immigration reform. Of course this is a short list that covers only two centuries and the Western Hemisphere.
As Christians, we follow the ultimate role model—Jesus Christ. The meaning of the word disciple is that of a follower—a person who would follow a teacher, and learn from that teacher not only knowledge and understanding, but also a way of life. Paul invites his readers to be disciples of Jesus Christ and to imitate him in their daily lives.
BE CAREFUL WITH ANGER
I find it interesting that Paul singles out anger in his writing. He gives permission to be angry, but then warns his readers not to sin. I think Paul does this because he realizes that anger is a natural human emotion, but also that anger can cause so much harm. Anger is used to control people, “Don’t get Fred, or Martha angry.” The words and actions that are expressed when we are angry often hurt people and damage relationships. Anger is also usually self-centered; we’re angry because we didn’t get our way.
Several passages in the Old Testament reveal God’s anger. There were a couple of times when God was so angry that he wanted to destroy his people. God’s anger, however, was always expressed in a way that sought to draw the people back into a relationship with him.
There are a few instances in the gospels when Jesus expresses his anger. He becomes angry with the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. We also see his anger expressed when he overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple. Jesus’ anger was against injustice, pointed out the sinfulness of humankind, and invited repentance and forgiveness.
Anger is a powerful force. Using Jesus as a role model, we should use our anger sparingly. The purpose of our anger should be to open the door for the healing of relationships and not the destruction of them. Finally, anger should be short lived. The Lord was always ready to forgive.
BUILD UP AND DON’T BREAK DOWN
Responding to God’s love and grace in their lives, Paul instructs his readers to “Let no evil talk come out of their mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that our words may give grace to those who hear.
I am often am amazed at the kindness of Jesus’ actions and words. He commented on the strong faith of a gentile woman and a centurion. He reached out and touched the untouchable and the outcasts of society—giving them value and worth by his actions.
There is so much in our world that tears us down. This broken world wearies us. Our success never seems to outweigh our limitations and failures. We are judged by others for our looks, our backgrounds, and for the person we are. The words and actions of others often are intended to inflict pain. Random acts of kindness are so powerful because they are so rare.
As disciples and followers of Jesus, we are called and empowered to words and actions of love. Christians are to be people that build up others and not break them down. We are called to heal and not hurt.
Paul warns his readers not to grieve the Holy Spirit—in a sense, don’t bring sadness to God.
In the Old Testament, God grieved when his people forsook him and when after other gods. God grieved when the actions of his people toward others did not reflect the love and forgiveness that they had received.
In the Garden of Gethsemane we see Jesus struggling with his calling; his destiny. He doesn’t want to take the path. He asks God the Father to remove the cup from him. When God the Father doesn’t, Jesus chooses not to grieve the Father but to be obedient to him.
Christians are called to faithful obedience. Often our obedience will go against our own desires and wishes. There are times when our faithful obedience will challenge us, or even be down right scary. This, though, is the nature of faith—to follow where God leads and not to wander along our own paths.
Paul notes that Jesus was a fragrant offering. As imitators of Jesus we, too, will be fragrant offerings.
The sense of smell is a powerful sense. Smell can trigger memories long forgotten or hidden. Smells can excited us, depress us, or soothe us.
Living as imitators of Christ and sharing God’s love and grace in words and deeds, we will become a fragrance that builds up, heals, and comforts. Our lives will be a fragrance that glorifies God.