Summary: Christians live lives contrary to the world. We are filled with the spirit. We live in community. We have purpose in our lives, and we celebrate God's abundance.
Ephesians 5:15-20 “Secrets of a Happy Life”
Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in the United States and in the world. He is known as the oracle of Omaha, because of his ability to read the economic tea leaves, predict the future, and offer advice on what to do. Mr. Buffet is known as a contrarian. When the majority of financial gurus say “Sell,” Buffet will buy. When they say “Buy,” he’ll sell. Being contrary has been very profitable for Mr. Buffet. He has made billions of dollars doing it.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul could be called a contrarian. He calls on his readers to be distinctly different from the world, and to act contrary to its values and activities. As disciples of Jesus Christ, Paul exhorts his readers to love instead of being lustful, to seek the light rather than live in the dark, and to be wise instead of foolish. This is not only the path of discipleship, but also the path of happiness.
Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians and others who read this letter is summarized in verse eighteen—“Be filled with the Spirit.” Paul contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being drunk. When a person is drunk, that person is under the control of the alcohol. A person’s actions run the gamut from silly and stupid to hurtful and deadly, while under the influence.
When a person is filled with the Spirit, he or she is under the influence of God. The gifts of the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy, might be exhibited, but that is not what Paul emphasizes in these verses. For Paul, being filled with the Spirit is not so much an experience as it is a relationship. Love, light, and wisdom are the general categories of evidence of living in a relationship with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Being filled with the Spirit is a daily reality. We open ourselves to the Spirit, as children of God, by being contrary to the ways of the world.
Paul writes to a congregation. His exhortation is to a community and not to an individual. Paul understands that it is absolutely necessary to be part of the “People” of God, and the “Body” of Christ. A life of being filled with the Spirit cannot be accomplished alone; it can only be realized in the group.
Our society places a premium on the individual. It is important for the individual to succeed—not necessarily the group. If a person fails, it is his or her own fault and he or she must get themselves out of the predicament. Helping others succeed is an option and not a requirement.
It is important for us to “do our own thing,” and to “have it our way.”
We hide in our homes, ensconced in our media centers and computers. We build six foot cinderblock fences in order to have our privacy and promote good neighbors. We text instead of talk, and experience virtual reality together in video games. It is common for people to say that they are spiritual, but at the same time confess that they are not a part of any organized religion. Able bodied people think that they can experience the abundant life through television preachers.
The path of Jesus leads to community. One of the first things he did, at the start of his ministry, was to call his disciples. Though the church has its foibles, it is still God’s invention and we have not been able to come up with a better idea.
Paul counsels his readers to “Make the most of time,” in verse fifteen. This is not a call to workaholism. This is an invitation to see meaning in our work and purpose in our lives.
Based on what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, two things drive and shape one’s Christian life, for Paul. Those two things are baptism and Jesus’ promise to return. As people who are members of God’s family and called to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus, we are God’s salt and like.
We are single minded in our purpose. Our goal is not to be the best parent, the most successful business person, or the best liked kid on the block. Our purpose is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Living a life celebrating God’s abundance by being grateful and thankful is key to happiness and experiencing the abundant life.
Paul’s exhortation came to a congregation that was experiencing difficult times. It was not necessarily easy for the congregation to be thankful, but it was a better alternative than complaining.