Ephesians 4:15 . . . speaking the truth in love.
Truth is such a precious thing that it must be spoken in love. This is especially important whenever correction is needed. The more lovingly something is said, the easier it is to receive.
Many years ago I used a sermon illustration that was not quite appropriate. After the service, a man corrected me so harshly that I nearly collapsed, and wondered if I could preach the next service.
Then another man said something similar, but in a very different way. That was one of the best sermons I have ever heard you preach, and I think it can be even better if you refine that illustration.
Both men said the same thing, but one was a blessing, and the other was a curse. It does not take a great deal of thoughtfulness to say what you think, but it takes a little thoughtfulness to say it in a way that will be helpful. Christians should always speak the truth, and always do it in love.
Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
One of Paul’s favorite images for the church is the body of Christ. Every part of a body has an important function, and everyone in the body of Christ has an important role to play. A fingernail may not seem important until you lose one, and you seldom think about your pancreas until it stops working. Likewise, the body of Christ grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does it is work.
A couple began attending a church I served, and often stayed to ask questions. They were deciding whether to become members, and wanted more information. We are not trying to be difficult [they said] but this is very important to us. We don’t just want to attend a church; we want to build the church we attend.
I was so amazed that I went back to my office and wrote down what they said. This should be the attitude of all God’s people. The body of Christ grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.
People are separated from God because of the hardness of their hearts. God’s word may enter their ears, but it does not change them, because they will not allow it to penetrate their hearts.
If you take a rock out of a river, and break it open, it will be dry inside. It may have been in the water for years, but it did not absorb a drop. The same is true of many who grow up in a Christian home. They are immersed in the truth, but do not love it. Their hearts have become hard due to a love for sin. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:15), says Hebrews.
Ephesians 4:26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
Anger is an appropriate response to injustice, and is not sinful in itself. But anger brings us close to sin because it is difficult for sinners to manage their anger well. Anyone can become angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, in the right way—that is not easy (Aristotle, slightly revised).
A lady had a can of soup sticking out of her wall, and I inquired how it got there. She explained that her husband disagreed with her, and she threw it at his head. Thankfully he ducked, and the can stuck in the wall instead of his head.
Another lady used a kitchen plate as a frisbee aimed at her husband’s head. Thankfully, he also ducked, and the plate flew out the window. Unfortunately, the window was closed at the time.
I have noticed in myself that when anger goes up, intelligence goes down. The higher the anger, the lower the rationality. Anger is a brief insanity, and the best remedy is a little time for thought.
Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.
Some people have one vocabulary for Sundays, and another for the rest of the week. Paul wanted Christians to be consistent, and to guard against anything inappropriate ever coming out of their mouths.
A friend of mine was raised in a Christian home, and had never heard his father curse. But he was surprised by what his father said when he slammed his thumb in drawer: Owie, that really hurt, he said. The Apostle Paul would have been pleased.
Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit is not a force, but a person with emotions. The indwelling Spirit helps us become like Christ, and is disappointed whenever we fail. God’s response to our sin is not always anger, but sorrow.
Imagine you saw your child taking a spelling test, and could see he was stuck on a word. You could also see the child next to him was not covering his work. You wanted your child to do the right thing, but he took a long steady gaze at his neighbor’s paper, and stole the answer. The disappointment in your heart is how God feels whenever you disobey. Whenever we do the right thing, we make our Father proud. Whenever we do the wrong thing, we bring him grief. [D]o not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Reflection and Review
Have you ever been corrected too harshly?
How do you manage your anger?
What do you think about profanity?