I will list my excuses: My firstborn began first grade. I went to St. Louis and got to see my sister and the sweetest niece in all of history. I got to speak at a youth retreat and share the gospel with 200 teenagers and catch up with an old friend.
I can’t even.
But still, please forgive me.
So I’m reading Ephesians 4 a little late.
You should read the whole chapter because I’m only really going to focus in on two really interesting contrasting concepts. Let’s look at the end of the chapter.
Paul is describing the Gentiles (those who don’t follow Jesus and aren’t Jewish):
“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.” (v 18-19)
But the recipients of this letter, this new church, in Ephesus were Gentiles! They were still transitioning into life with Christ, and Paul is giving them a picture of how their own lives have changed. I think about what it means to be callous. Hardened. Lacking sensitivity. Toughened by the world.
I don’t think that Paul was saying that they were calloused, tough people-- I think he was saying their hearts had been calloused toward God. They couldn’t hear the whispers of the Spirit. The didn’t walk in the presence of God.
So Paul reminds them, this isn’t you anymore! You have been changed!
“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (v. 20-24)
Sometimes I don’t feel like I my life is any different to anyone else’s. In fact, there are people in the world who serve others in bigger ways than I do, and they aren’t Christians. I am not better because I am a Christian. I don’t get it right. I have no sanctimonious pedestal to stand on. But I know that I have hope to stand on. Hope that has nothing to do with me. I know that my heart has been made permeable to the voice of God.
Like those new Christians in Ephesus, I have been given the gift of faith; the gift of relationship with a living God. My heart has been softened, kneaded, renewed in the waters of baptism. And now I live in that baptism, daily. I stand on a hope that lets me put on the new self and let go of the old garbage I've been lugging around.
Chapter 4 ends with an incredible comparison, in total contrast to being hard-hearted and callous toward God:
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (v. 32)
We are people who have walked through the waters of baptism and are being transformed by the Spirit of God. We breathe grace and forgiveness because it’s what we’ve been given.
Friends, let’s remember the hope we stand on and go out with tender hearts, ready to give grace and forgiveness.