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Overview the text of Ephesians 4:25-5:2 - Show how the negative habits/manners break down community, but the positive ones build it up.

  1. Lying erodes trust, it demeans others and judges others unworthy of the truth. Honesty, by contrast respects one another and believes in one another

  2. Anger that is unprocessed becomes bitterness, rage and malice. Relationships are shattered and wounded. But when we make amends and forgive, when we reconcile we grow stronger.

  3. Harsh and hateful words poisons the hearts and minds of others, but when we use our words to encourage and heal we build one another up.

This section of Scripture is a description of what our life together could be like when we live out our Christian calling. It is a vision for what the church, the people of God, can really be.
          This is a high vision for human life. It is inspiring and encouraging. It is a high standard. The final example shows just how much God envisions for his people: The thief can become a philanthropist.

Stealing is parasitical. It consumes and takes what others have, perhaps for selfish gain or perhaps out of desperation. What sort of community and life together can be formed when we steal from one another?

In his book, Mere Morality: What God Expects from Ordinary People, Lewis Smedes describes what stealing and theft have done to our society: “When people sense that their private lives are vulnerable, they fear every stranger in their midst. And so they shut out strangers. They build walls, bolt doors, and install electronic vigilantes. ... Thus, community shrinks to confined quarters where only proven friends are allowed. ... Stealing closes us in on ourselves and paralyzes us; love is frozen when people live in fear of thieves.” [p. 190]

We may be even more paranoid and closed in than Smedes described 25 years ago. Stealing is more sophisticated and less tangible than ever before. Once we could trust in physical things like keys, locks, steel vaults, and even “the club.” But now we rely on passwords and PIN codes. The simplest of activities such as shopping, watching movie, playing music are subject to encryption and encoding. Why? Because of stealing. Because of the thief. What’s next in a world where your identity can be stolen?

With the help of God’s word, let’s imagine another way. What if our hope is in sharing rather than security? What if God’s spirit could effect a change in all of us so that we could live with each other in a very different way?
          The “rather” in verse 28, is all important. Instead of life as a thief, instead of taking and consuming without any sort of return, instead of that one might use his or her resources and talents to share. And it isn’t enough to just make a living or even get wealthy, one should earn a profit so that one can help others.
          “Love requires us – and enables us – to move out toward our neighbors in ways that bring them at least what they have coming to them by virtue of their presence among us as human beings.” [p. 207]

Here’s a high vision for what it means to be a follower of Christ. As God’s people we are going to be faced with a lot of challenges and struggles. Being a Christian isn’t a guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen, but our vision of who we are as individuals and as a church family will make all the difference in how we face difficulties and challenges. Our manners and ethics are more than being polite; they are the habits of a people who are devoted to imitating the spirit and mind of God.

If God’s inspired writer believed that a thief could become a philanthropist then I believe you and I can become more than anything we can imagine.
I choose to believe that we can be a noble people who live up to the standard God envisions. I choose to believe that we can live not only for ourselves, but for the good of one another. I choose to believe this, because I believe in Christ. What do you believe?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 10 June 2007

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