Summary: How are we to be people of integrity in a world that’s opposed to God? By being children of light, and living as light in the world. That means ensuring that the things we do are things that we’re proud of, things that we’d gladly do in the presence of Go
What does it mean to be a person of integrity? Well, the word derives from the word integer, which means something that’s complete or whole in itself. So when you’re reading a letter like Ephesians, which concentrates so much on unity in the Church, it’s appropriate that we think about unity of our persons as well. That is, integrity. You see, Paul has talked about what we are: our status as God’s sons and daughters, our being in Christ. He’s talked about what we believe, our theology: the forgiveness that comes through Christ, the unity we have as part of his body, the reconciliation we experience between us and God and with each other, and now, beginning with the passage Doug took us through last week, he wants to talk about the way we behave that reflects the other two things. He wants us to understand that to be an integrated person, our being, our thought, and our actions have to coincide. That is, to put it in Doug’s words we have to be what we were created to be. Be what you believe. The three can never be separated. So, he says, if you’re God’s dearly loved children, act like it: imitate him. If you’re a follower of Christ, then follow him, love others the way he did and gave himself up for us. Put off your old way of life and put on the new.
A. Be Holy in Your Actions
But what does that mean in practical terms? How will it show itself in the way we act? We looked at some of the implications last week, speaking the truth, being angry without sinning, working for giving not for having, using our tongues to build up rather than tear down, making Christ’s love the rule in our lives. But in this passage, Paul goes on to think about the impact of the dominant culture on our lives. You see, Ephesus was a very worldly city; a very modern city in fact. It was a large trading city and would have had all the sexual immorality that’s always been found in large cities. But as Doug mentioned last week, Ephesus was also home to the Temple of Artemis, or Diana, who was regarded as a fertility goddess, so sexual orgies were regularly associated with her worship. So there was a certain legitimacy given to this sort of immoral behaviour. It’s not so unlike our own situation, where sexual immorality is the norm. In fact I’m not sure we can talk of immorality any more. Just turn on your television and watch a sitcom or soap opera or drama series or even ads and sexual licence is portrayed as normal at every turn. The highest paid actor this past year was Jerry Seinfeld. That’s because his show was the most successful show on TV. And what’s the underlying premise of the show? It’s sex! Who will the main characters sleep with? Who will George be able to seduce this week? How can Kramer have such sex appeal? The same applies to most if not all of the other high rating sitcoms on our TV screens: Friends, Suddenly Susan, Newsradio. I’ve only seen the previews of Ally McBeal, but they’d imply that it’s much the same. It makes you wonder why anyone would worry about President Clinton having an affair with Monica Lewinsky doesn’t it? I mean everyone else is doing it, why not him?
Can you see how hard it is for us to maintain our integrity when we live in a society like this. Nothing much has changed in 2000 years really, has it? So what does Paul suggest?
Well, the first thing he says is that "fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints." These sorts of behaviour are to be totally banished from our life together. The NIV puts it, "There’s to be not even a hint of them". We’re not only to avoid indulging in them, but also to avoid talking about them. Now let me suggest that one reason for that is that as soon as you start discussing these things they begin to take on a legitimacy. If they’re a legitimate subject for discussion then there might be some situations in which they’re OK. Can you see how this works, particularly in the modern context of relativism, where what I think is true for me but maybe not for you? This is the real power of the forces of liberalism today, both in the Church and in the wider society. If we can get euthanasia on the agenda, then eventually we’ll get to the point where we can agree on the situations in which it can be applied. (Just substitute whatever controversial subject you like: abortion, human cloning, homosexuality, casual sex, electronic implants, legalised polygamy, legalisation of drugs, etc.) But Paul says, sexual immorality and impurity mustn’t even be mentioned among you. If you know that something is contrary to God’s law don’t even put it on the agenda. If you must discuss it with those outside the church, as we will because we live in a multi-faith society, then be united as a church in your attitude towards it. Why? Because we’re the saints, that is, God’s holy people, and such things are improper for the people of God, end of discussion. We’ll look at a moment at how we’re to judge what’s right for us to do, but for now, take this as a good rule of thumb for working out these sorts of ethical issues: if you were standing before God as you made up your mind, what decision would you make? But more of that in a moment.