Making peace is one of those things that I think we all strive for but it can become quite elusive some days. We know that Jesus said in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” And according to what we have been learning about God’s desire for us to accept the gift in being the children of God, then we are supposed to create peace. Yet, we know that sometimes it is easier said than done.
Creating peace is hard anytime that people come together and live in any type of community. People are people and we do and say things that not everyone will agree with. The writer of Ephesians knew that as well. The key is what do we do when we say and do things that upset or offend our fellow community members in the church. As we grow closer to the end of this sermon series, we need to ask ourselves do we feel closer, are we no longer strangers? If so, then hopefully we have learned to do this we need to live as a people who are called to receive the gift of salvation.
When we accepted the gift of grace and welcomed the Holy Spirit into our lives, that is a life changing event. We are called to live a different type of lifestyle than we might have before. Many people receive joy out of getting into a good argument with their friends either in person or on line. Social media is a perfect outlet for this because people can spout their feelings without any recourse or worry about how they have made others feel, because it is just virtual. But the reality is we get tired of seeing the same people post the same types of stuff that makes them feel good and impresses those in the sound chamber that they are in. And vice-versa to get after those “others” that are just clueless and have no idea what the real world is like. This vicious cycle perpetuates itself over and over, day after day.
The truth is, if this is you, and this is what brings you joy, then you are missing the entire purpose of Christ’s call on our lives. This does not bring harmony and peace to the community you live in. If you avoid conflict in real life, but have these thoughts and share those same things on-line, then you might as well turn to your neighbor in the pew right now and tell them they are an idiot and let the battle begin.
Jesus called his followers and by extension us through this letter to change the way we think and see one another. We read these words, “let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” How we speak the truth to one another makes all the difference in the world. Knowing we are all in this together, no longer strangers, reminds us that we treat one another as we would our best friends and the relatives we still talk to. Knowing our words are truth and not some half-baked notion meant to make the other person mad, then we enter into something called respect.
Verse 27 reads, “Do not make room for the devil.” If you are like me, I have said and done some things just to see the reaction and to make others mad. And that is directly the work of the devil. It forces us to re-evaluate and pause before we open our mouths and get into it with someone. We must truly admit some days we would rather be with the devil as compared to working for peace.
Verse 29, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” How many times a day should we say this before we open our mouths, hit that share button, and/or fire off that email? Depending on the day it might be several. How do we build one another up with grace? Especially that person who just gets under our skin and runs up our arm and down our backs, can we find words to do that? Again, I believe that it goes right back to respect. If you would not say it to your favorite friend or relative, why would you say it to someone else?
“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Verses 31 and 32 remind us that we can have those feelings, but that we are to put them away in a sense of forgiveness. If someone has made us angry, it is important to try and forgive them first before the conversation even begins. And sometimes we don’t have to be right and agree with one another to still be tenderhearted to one another. We also have to realistic and know that sometimes it is just unhealthy to be in relationships with some people. Whether it is from abuse, neglect, physical and/or emotional trauma we can and should turn the forgiveness over to God. When that happens, we need to recognize it and remove those people from our lives and seek professional help and counseling to deal with the trauma.
Our writer sums up this section by reminding us, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (5:1-2) I think of a pleasant fragrance like sweet flowers, Thanksgiving dinner, bread baking, or cookies in the oven it brings a little smile to my face. How difficult is it to be angry with someone when you have a smile on your face? Pretty tough right.
Making peace is not easy and it takes practice. Peace making has to become a way of life for us. It is not living as the world we know lives. It is living into a hope for a better world. We may have people who get upset with us and we with them, but the actions we take and conversations we have are very important. We can strive to always be right and to heck with the other person. Or we can put the other person’s humanity before us and then deal with the issue. More often than not the topic of the or the issue will be forgotten soon, but remaining strangers or building the church will last for eternity. May God’s peace be with you. Amen.