19th Sunday in Ordinary time; Year B
Ephesians 4:30 – 5:2
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with his seal for you to be set free when the day comes. Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.
Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.
I mean – never let it be said that St. Paul isn’t clear in what he tells us.
This is one of those passage that, when you hear it, seems to set us an impossible standard to live up to. But that’s the point – it is an impossible standard. If you don’t stop reading after this impossible list, then St. Paul, actually tells us this: “Try, then, to imitate God as children of his…”. We can, we suppose, take some comfort in this.
What, then, is the point of this list then? Well, as ever, context is important, and by looking back slightly – by placing this passage in its context, we can take more from it. In verse 26, Paul writes “Even if you are angry, you must not sin: never let the sun set on your anger.” So if we are being warned to to sin when we are angry – we can conclude that anger is not necassarily sinful. But, when we are angry we can, naturally, act in any of the ways that St. Paul warns us against in today’s passage. So, are we to say, then, that we’re allowed to be angry…but not show it? That doesn’t make sense either?
What St. Paul is emphaising here is not the incidents themselves (though, of course, the warning is still important) – but our actions after the fact. Older married couples often dispence the wisdom “Never go to bed on an arguement”, and that is, really, what St. Paul is saying here. Because the words used in this passage aren’t just ‘of the moment’ but are lingering feelings – temper. grude, spitefulness – than can chaneg our relationships with others, and us as individuals.
And then, he brings us back to Christ – and dares us to imitate him. Because, as Christians we believe in a God who has experiences our Humanity. Jesus, had friends betray him; Jesus sought support from his closest friends, only for them to fall asleep; Jesus had his friends deny and forget him when it was convenient. But yet – despite of, or even because of all this – Jesus still took up his Cross and dies for them and us.
Jesus, must have felt hurt in the moment Judas Betrayed him or James had fallen asleep or Peter denied him. He must have experienced an anger and momentary pain and sandess – if he did not then he would not have been human (which we know Jesus was, both Fully Human and Fully Devine). But yet – he forgave them, and looked past their sin; as God forgave us. And that, really, if what St. Paul is saying in all this, that yes, as people we will disagree and argue and even fall out. But, we must ultimately “Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave [us] in Christ “