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08.09.09 Ephesians 4:21-5:2 Living in Christian Community Sermon Scraps

by on August 9, 2009

1. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger”

When Ephesians says this, it’s not telling us to argue through the night until we’re no longer angry. I know some couples who try this, and either they fail to resolve their issues because they are too tired to really listen and work together, or the “solutions” are superficial. Go to bed angry, just don’t drop the issue. If you’re angry, deal with it; if not today, then tomorrow. For anger, like deception, only grows and will eventually consume you and hurt the community.

The Psalm from which this injunction comes says, “When you are disturbed, do not sin. Ponder it on your beds and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the LORD” (Psalm 4:4-5). It actually encourages meditating on the matter in bed. The “right sacrifice” IS the “trust in the LORD.” Then, as the Psalm ends, we can “both lie down and sleep in peace” knowing God keeps us in safety.

The same principle applies to the full spectrum of our emotional experience, the list in the sermon. We need to deal with our emotions, if not in the moment, then sometime. But we need to do it in a constructive way, not in a sleep-deprived state.

The principle also applies to all our impulses. Basically the principle is self-control. It’s based on the realization that we are not our emotions, we are not our histories, our victimizations, our genes, our disappointments, or any other variable outside our choice to trust God. God accepts all these factors of our lives, just as God accepts our emotions. What scripture calls us to is to trust more than our experience when making decisions; we are to also trust God.

2. Reading lists in the Bible (became the “practical vs. principle” part of the sermon)

Instructions often come by way of lists. Lists are helpful because they can be easily referred to, even memorized, as guidelines for how to do things. They can summarize important information.

For example, on the side of our fire extinguisher there is a short list on how to put out the fire. It uses the acronym PASS. First you Pull the safety pin, then you Aim the hose, then you Squeeze the trigger, and finally you Sweep from side to side. This is a very helpful list. But it applies to a specific situation: putting out a fire with this fire extinguisher. It isn’t a course in firefighting, or the right response to every emergency. The list of instructions, as helpful as it is, has limited applicability.

One of the lists in Ephesians gives instructions to slaves and masters. That was a very helpful list in a time when slavery was normal. But today’s Christians would never condone slavery, and so that list has to be read in a different light. We have to read it for principle, not practice.

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