“as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32)

All of us, as young children, were taught basic “rules of the road” for living (never run with scissors, look both ways before crossing, etc.), and most of us were made to follow them so closely that we internalized them as part of our conscience. Ridiculous though some of them may have been, these rules provided a necessary framework for organizing our everyday lives.

Adults need to follow basic rules of behavior as well, for otherwise chaos ensues. Obviously, with this in mind, a national chain of eateries helpfully posts its “House Rules” on the wall in each of its 1,500 locations, concerning such matters as abusive language and “unlawful harassment.” One might think that these prohibitions are nothing but common sense, and indeed they are . But they wouldn’t be posted if customers, at one time or another, hadn’t engaged in precisely those things.

Today’s reading from Ephesians provides some “rules of the road” for Christians, particularly when dealing with sisters and brothers in faith. There’s a directive to basic honesty: “[P]utting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another” (4:25). There ‘s a plea for forbearance: “[D]o not let the sun go down on your anger,” but rather “

ut away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice” (4:26, 31). And there’s an unmistakable reminder of the duty to love unconditionally: “[B]e kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (4:32). One might think that these admonitions are nothing but common sense, and indeed they are. But they wouldn’t be listed here if

Christians didn’t tend to treat one another pretty shamefully. And we certainly do. Congregations and candidates can and do “stretch the truth” with each other in clergy calling processes, and the results can be disastrous for both. We get angry at those who disagree with us on the issues of the day, impugning them with all manner of terrible motives. And we’re anything but kind, tender hearted, and forgiving as we haul each other into civil courts, convincing ourselves that we’re taking some high road in the process. The rules in Ephesians are as necessary for us, apparently, as are the “House Rules” for customers of that waffle place. What might The Episcopal Church look like if we actually put into practice what we’re enjoined to do in this Sunday’s epistle? The result just might be amazing.

Look it Up

What guidelines for daily living does Jesus give us in the gospels?

Think About It

How might our personal lives improve were we to follow the admonitions in today’s epistle?