Paul does not hold back in this chapter. He is giving the list of do and don’ts, and he is addressing many things that have filtered into the church even now today. And though we operate under grace, the list of things to stay away from isn’t because God is a grumpy God who pees on everyone’s parade. They are instructions to protect and guard us against the enemy getting a foothold.
We have all been there, entertaining areas in our life that need us to shut the door, turn the lights on or flee from. But somehow, we think we can handle just a smidge of sin, a moment of unclean thoughts, a short story of gossip, an excuse to try, look or touch. After all, we're only human, right? Let me spin it this way; I have always mentored mommas with this phrase, “You are not raising children, you’re raising adults,” this is what Paul is essentially saying. The church wasn’t looking much different than the world they were called to evangelize, and Paul wants them to step up and become who they are called to be. Jesus loves us too much to leave us the way he found us. He isn’t raising children; he is growing an army, which comes with a bit of transformation. You see, Paul makes a sandwich of sorts. He butters the bread, so to say, starting this chapter with a positive spin, reminding the Christians of Ephesus to who they belong to.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
Paul Continues with warnings of immorality and staying away from sexual impurity, greed, obscene stories, dirty jokes, idolatry, and making excuses for sin. He is crossing every T and dotting every I, to be sure he imparts the importance of being an imitator of Christ. Living a life of love by following the example of Jesus. This wasn’t to shame or condemn anyone; it was for their benefit and their protection. In Chapter 4, verse 1, Paul instructs to Live a life worthy of the call of God on your life. Why is Paul zeroing in on such topics in chapter 5? Perhaps the world was just as messy as it is today, and the influence of the times was influencing the Church. I think Paul was reminding them THEY were the influence. THEY were the Change. THEY were Jesus with skin on. He then finishes the sandwich with this verse.
For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-9 NLT
This is a classic way to correct; start with something positive, confront the issue, and end with an upbeat word of praise. Paul reminded them of who they were, told them who not to be, then continued with where they came from and who they are now, and what they bring to the world; a light that is good, right, and true. As I mentioned in my last devotion, the verse Live a life worthy of your call, was a training scripture. One particular teaching moment was an older woman calling me out on my coarse jesting. She was polite, loving, but quite matter-of-fact. She said, “God is taking you places, and you can’t go around and talk like that anymore.” I immediately apologized to her because I knew the moment, she said it, she was right. I didn’t feel shame; I felt convicted. And I was grateful someone loved me enough to remind me of my role as a daughter of the King and remind me that God had a big plan, and I needed to rise to the occasion; that was 20 years ago. God asked me to put away my childish ways, and he used someone I loved and respected to be my Paul. My job as a daughter is to represent my Father. This is all Paul is trying to say in this chapter. He isn’t asking them to be perfect; he asks them to be polished and present well. Paul is saying, “Don’t look like the world.” We aren’t meant to blend. We are meant to be set apart and sanctified. Being a Christian looks like something. It looks like grace. It looks like kindness. It looks like compassion. It looks like courage. It looks like discipline. It looks different than what the world calls acceptable. We are light. We are love. We are a reflection and an imitator of our King. After all, there are those following us as we follow Him.