Reflecting on Ephesians 4:30-5:2
What? No bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, or reviling? How will we ever get through football season, not to mention the presidential debates? Somehow it’s enlightening to know that the Christians in ancient Ephesus had the same trigger tempers and rude behaviors that mark so much of what passes for adult discourse in our day.
The author of the letter to the Ephesians had to spell out the ABCs of how those who have embraced Christ should behave towards each other. Yes, they had to be scolded. Yes, they had to be schooled in the soul-changing virtues of compassion and forgiveness. But the Good News is that the radical social engineering that is the Christian life took root and bore fruit that remains.
The early Christian church in the first three centuries after the resurrection brought about the most amazing transformation of diverse social and religious cultures ever achieved by peaceful means in the history of the world.
Sociologist Rodney Stark analyzed the survival and growth of the early church in the first few centuries. He offers the following observations:
To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachment. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. And to cities faced with epidemics, fire, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services.
Tertullian, writing from North Africa around 197AD, cited his pagan neighbors remarking, “These Christians, see how they love one another!”
We’re still working at it. But Christ has won the victory. We have only to carry it out.
If you were tried as a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?