Some people hate Valentine’s Day. Not because they’ve got anything against St. Valentine, whoever he was, but because relationships take so much dog-gone work, they’re messy & confusing. Who in the world would ever want to take time to love someone unconditionally?!! What a waste of time, right?!! I beg to differ.
At Crossroads Greeley tomorrow, we’re nearly completing our study of the book of Ephesians together. We are going to “walk” through Ephesians 5:1-6:9 and remind our little church community that we’re strategically part of something bigger than ourselves, and it’s called the Kingdom of God. Let’s take a quick look now at what we’re getting ourselves into.
This is not a set of “rules” for holier-than-thou people to adhere to, in order to please the Almighty and skate past the pearly gates. No, this section of Scripture from the Apostle Paul is grass-roots relational identity stuff and teaches his community & ours how to love God and serve neighbor so that our community of faith might reflect God’s presence in this world just a little more each day. As soon as you hear believers bash these verses around on unsuspecting others, in order to “lord it over” some, you can bet it has nothing to do with what Apostle Paul meant.
1. Walk a life of love, like Jesus does (5:1-2)
Jesus showed us how to love God and love neighbor like no one ever had prior to his presence on the earth. Oh sure, people loved one another, but not in a serving way that Christ demonstrated throughout his life. Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus directly teaches his followers that we are not to lord our authority over others, rather we are to serve and give our lives for them. What a concept of walking in faith and showing the love of God to one another. What if we were to imitate God’s love for the world like that? What kind of church & world would we have? I can hardly imagine it.
2. Walk as children of light, not darkness (5:8-10)
Paul’s concept is simple… light reflects light, darkness reflects nothing. Darkness is void of fruitfulness and is a concealer of evil. Have nothing to do with dark deeds that get hidden away in order to protect self. Addictions come from habitual behaviors learned in the metaphorical darkness that do nothing but destroy. What if we learned to expose deeds of darkness in the light of Christ, and learned to live into our freedom from sin, rather than management of it, which is a failure anyways? It seems too simple, doesn’t it?
3. Walk wisely, every moment is an opportunity (5:15-16)
Wisdom, knowledge, understanding, logic, forethought, clarity… all these characteristics mark wise living in faith. The antithesis of this is inebriation, giving oneself to spirits (plural) of alcohol, intoxicating weed, and methods of escapism. None of the behaviors of escapism heed God’s call to wisdom and taking captive every opportunity for Christ. When we give into the craftiness of the serpent (Genesis 3:1), we find ourselves adrift from the wisdom God grants us in knowing Christ. Thinking clearly leads to being filled with the Spirit (singular) of God, who guides us and prompts us to respond to His leading in expanding the Kingdom of God in our world today. What if we reflected God’s image in sobriety more? What if we lived to glean wisdom from God (James 1:1-18), rather than escape from the pains of the world through medicinal pleasures? What then?! We’d have to deal with the realities of pain, suffering and loss and mature in our faith with Christ who commands us to persevere under trials and grow in depth in our knowing God. hmmmmm, what then?!
4. Finally, Walk together equally revering the Lord Jesus (5:21)
Believers & unbelievers alike, have misinterpreted the Scripture “to submit” (5:22) in ways worse than most the entire Bible. Why is this? How has our need for control, dominance, power, authority, drive and “climbing-the-ladder” of success become so out of whack from what God truly envisioned? Why does a preacher like John Piper get away with irreverently saying “God has given Christianity a masculine feel.” Sadly, many have taken “submission” out of context in Ephesians 5 and made it into a weapon over women. Ironically, the word submit is not even in the Greek text, but people have nuanced it in for the sake of power.
To clarify, we are to surrender ourselves, one to another equally, out of reverence for Christ. When Jesus mentioned authority, he admonished his followers to lead with servant-like qualities especially in the manner of giving oneself to the benefit of others (Matthew 20:25-28). How can men take this Scripture in Ephesians 5 to mean they have power over women? The Greek word for head “kephale” does not mean “source”, rather it’s a call to responsibility for the husband to nurture, care for and benefit his wife. Paul tells fathers to train up their children in the Lord, which is more responsibility altogether. Children obey parents, slaves (employees) and masters (management) are to treat one another with equal service.
Relational identity comes most clearly from Apostle Paul’s teaching on light and darkness in Ephesians 5:8-10. We are called to live as children of light, reflecting the love and wisdom of God to one another in equal submission and equal opportunity as we advance the Kingdom of the Living God in our culture and time today. How will you go about reflecting the love of God, the light of Christ, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit under equal surrender to one another?
Some people hate Valentine’s Day because relationships are so difficult to work on altogether. What happens if we take the words of Apostle Paul and apply them to our relational identity forming a community of God’s love, God’s light in this dark world, wisdom from God and equal surrender to one another in marriage, parenting & work, like the Lord Jesus surrendered for all of us… even you & me?
God is glorified, that’s what.
I love you.
Happy Valentine’s Day (every day of the year).