Summary: Transformed by God’s grace, we walk before others, including our families, exemplifying the fruits of the Spirit
Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-14 “Imitators of God”
Is faith a verb or a noun? Most of us would identify “faith” as a noun. The Christian faith is a set of theological principles to which we give assent and adhere. For example, we believe in the truth that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose from the dead so that our sins could be forgiven and we could experience a new, close relationship with God. Or, we say that the faith is contained in the three historic creeds of the Church. We are partly correct in identifying “faith” as a noun. Faith is used twice as a noun in the New Testament.
All the other times that we read the word, “faith,” in the New Testament it is a verb. The Christian faith is living in the reality of those things that we know to be true. We live in faith. We step out in faith. We act in faith. Paul stressed the idea that faith is a verb in his letter to the Ephesians.
Paul first stressed that God is a God of love. God’s love and grace in expressed by the new life that we have received as a gift, and by God’s powerful movement in our lives and in our world—a movement that is beyond our imagination. The rest of his letter to the Ephesians deals with how he envisions Christians living out their faith. Paul’s words are both practical and challenging.
THE CONGREGATION AND THE FAMILY
Last week we focused on Paul’s advice for living together as a community of believers. Acting in faith we act with patience and humility in our relationships with others. We use our gifts and talents for the good of others, and we allow the Holy Spirit to flow through us and form us into the strong, dynamic body of Christ.
The congregation is not the only venue where we live out our faith, though. We also live out our faith in our relationships with the people we meet in our everyday lives, and with our family. Like his directions for congregational relationships, Paul’s advice to the Ephesians is both challenging and practical.
His advice can be summed up in the words, “Be imitators of God.”
· Be present. The keystone of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that truth that God became human. As Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, “Jesus did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a human.”
· Be loving. Paul instructs his readers to love as Christ loved. Love is the hallmark of Jesus’ life. Jesus loved the children and gathered them to himself. Jesus loved the outcasts and those in need and touched their lives. Jesus loved those who hated him and as they nailed him to the cross he asked that their sins not be counted against them.
· Be people of integrity. Paul reminds his readers that we are children of the light. We are to live as children of the light. The characteristics of God, which are sometimes called the fruit of the Spirit, are ours. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control are characteristics that people should be aware of in our lives, too.
LIVING OUT THE FAITH EVERYDAY
Living out our faith is most difficult in our families—both nuclear and extended. Family members know us too well, and it is difficult to fool them. The family is also where we let down our defenses, become a little vulnerable, and occasionally act non-Christian ways that we would never allow ourselves to act in public. Paul’s practical instructions on how to live out our Christian faith still challenge us in our families.
One of the most difficult things to do in today’s society, with our hectic schedules, is to be present. We cannot negate the power of presence in our family relationships, though.
B. Charles Francis Adams, the 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: "Went fishing with my son today--a day wasted." His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: "Went fishing with my father--the most wonderful day of my life!" The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time.
Imitating God’s love, we are challenged to make sure that our love is unconditional. Certainly we can expect great things from our family and they from us. God told us to be perfect as he is perfect. Our love, though, should never be conditional on their attainment of perfection or even our human expectations. Reflecting God’s love, we love in success and in failure. We love when the other person is self-righteous and when the other person cannot love themselves.