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Summary: Using the illustration of "Broken Windows" we see how Paul instructs his readers to "sweat the small stuff." That is, eliminate even the smallest of sins from our lives and become imitators of God

Many people remember former New York Mayor Rudy Gulliani specifically because of his leadership following the World Trade Centre attacks in September, 2001. But he will also be remembered for dramatically reducing the crime levels in New York City.

For many years New York’s reputation throughout the world was that it was a city of high crime statistics, and rightly so. Movies always portrayed the city as one that was covered in graffiti, controlled by gangs and a place that you would never walk in alone, day or night.

When Rudy Gulliani became mayor he embraced a social theory called “Broken Windows” to fight the high crime levels and attempt to improve the overall living standard of the city. From his book called “Leadership” this is how he describes “Broken Windows.”

The theory holds that a seemingly minor matter like broken windows in abandoned buildings leads directly to more serious deterioration of neighbourhoods. Someone who wouldn’t normally throw a rock at an intact building is less reluctant to break a second window in a building that already has one broken. And someone emboldened by all the second broken windows may do even worse damage if he senses that no one is around to prevent lawlessness. (Rudy Giuliani, “Leadership”, (London: Time Warner, 2002), 47)

It was an enormous task for Gulliani. One which required the co-operation of many separate departments, such as the police, sanitation, public transport and so on. All departments were told to “sweat the small stuff,” as Gulliani describes it. Seemingly ‘minor’ crimes like jaywalking and littering were cracked down upon. It was a must that any graffiti upon trains or other public places was removed immediately. Store owners whose shops needed repair were encouraged to fix their premises. Garbage removal was improved so that waste did not remain on the streets unnecessarily.

Gulliani achieved the immense task of uniting all of the various departments behind the common cause of stopping the “Broken Windows” theory in its tracks and thereby dramatically reducing the city’s crime levels.

The theory of “Broken Windows” was developed in the early 80’s but I think it’s exactly what Paul was trying to say in the following passage:

Ephesians 4:17 – 5:2

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The key verses here are 4:22 – 24 and 5:1-2. This is what it’s all about.

You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self… and to put on the new self to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

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