There is a language clue in today’s reading that sets the stage for what’s coming. Paul begins this reading with “I therefore” and when Paul uses the word THEREFORE it usually means that which came before is the buildup to what he is about to tell us . In the preceding chapters of his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul has given us God as the foundation of our faith and Jesus as the cornerstone of our faith. Therefore, based on that something important is about to follow.
We kind of started down the path last week as we focused a bit on our reconciliation between ourselves and other people. Doing what we can for our part to heal the rifts that come up between ourselves and other people. In a similar kind of mindset, Christ fills the gap in our relationship with God that we create through our sin. Reconciliation and relationships matter. Relationships with one another and relationship with God ecause we are one people, created and claimed by God.
Which kind of begs the question, what is Paul building us up for? What has Paul set the stage for as he writes to the Ephesians? We don’t know exactly because we don’t know exactly why Paul is writing. It seems likely that someone in Ephesus contacted Paul in some fashion, likely by writing a letter TO him so they would receive a response FROM him. We can only guess at the questions they had based on the response that Paul wrote but Paul’s response to their challenge is pretty clear. We are one in Christ. Whatever the cause of their conflicts the, the Ephesians apparently had some divisions amongst them and Paul is letting them know, STOP IT! You are ONE, in Christ!
Some of you lean toward a conservative view of things. Some of you lean toward a liberal view of things. That’s all well and good but however you see the world you must remember one thing. As people of faith we count off by ones. One body, one Spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. There is no division based on what we think about this, that, or the other thing that is consuming our heart and mind. Whatever the cause of our conflicts the, we definitely have some division amongst ourselves and Paul is letting US know, STOP IT! We are ONE, in Christ!
Paul is speaking a truth directly to the Ephesians and a truth directly to us. Another example of scripture being relevant and on point 2000 years ago and relevant and on point today. Division was a problem 2000 years ago and it is a problem today. Paul calls us, not on his authority but in the name of Christ, to be as one in Christ.
Which is often annoying. Not because being one is a bad thing but because in order to BE one we have to submit ourselves to what God wants as Paul describes it. This isn’t a Hallmark card sentiment, this isn’t a cleverly worded meme with a cute picture of kittens and puppies, this isn’t a piece of clickbait that claims we can’t delay reading this now or the world will end. This is God’s actual word given through the Apostle Paul and recorded in his letter to the church in Ephesus that we find in the New Testament. In other words, this is not optional. This is not debatable. This is how it is whether we like it or not. Not because I said so but because God says so. And that is why it is annoying. And still not optional.
It’s kind of like spiritual adulting. We may be annoyed by what we’re called to do and we may want to stomp our feet in protest (and perhaps we literally do) but the way Paul puts it in v14, We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” we aren’t given many options as to how we respond to Paul’s call to be one in Christ. Like a small child we usually prefer to follow our own desires and ignore what we know is right and true. That’s nothing new apparently as Paul’s letter shows us but it remains a problem, nonetheless. And Paul is relentless in his response to our following our desires rather than what we’re called to be and do in Christ. In contemporary parlance, we’re called to adulting and we don’t always like it.
For those of you familiar with Lord of the Rings characters there is a meme going around with Smeagol, who hates everything and who has an interesting way of phrasing things. He comments, “Adulting – we hates it!” I wanted to put it on screen but it’s kind of a frightening image so I chose not to. But it captures pretty well what our faith life can be like at times. We sometimes hate what we’re called to do. Even spiritual adulting.
But adulting in our faith life is important. If we’re not serious about the core tenets of our faith, we set ourselves up for falling for any kind of thing, or again as Paul puts it in v14, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. If we’re not serious about the core tenets of our faith, we may not be certain in our hearts and minds that through Christ’s death on the Christ we are saved by grace through our faith. Which can lead to believing that we need to earn our salvation by attempting to be good people or do good things. Which is all kinds of foolish being tossed to and fro in our uncertainty. And leads to all kinds of foolish division based on desires rather than our unity in Christ.
I know it is tough. I like being right and am usually convinced that my opinion is always right. And maybe sometimes it actually is. But more important than being right is being one in Christ. That doesn’t mean we have to give up our opinions. It means we can’t let our opinions create division. That’s what Paul says anyways and I suspect he’s right about that. I’m reasonably certain no one dies being glad they were right about things but I know for a fact, a fact because I’ve been with them when it happens, that people die being glad they died as one in Christ.
We can’t choose Christ because Christ has chosen us. But we can choose to be right over being one. Or we can be spiritual adults and choose Christ over our own desires. That choice is up to us. Choose wisely.