Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
Sometimes we stop imitating God and start confusing ourselves with him. We take up the scepter of judgment, we try to heap on conviction and condemnation, we punish. We think of ourselves not as children of God but as little gods ourselves.
I say we, because I will include myself. There are times that I fall as woefully short as everyone else.
The verse says, “and live a life of love.” Be imitators of God, and live a life of love. Love as fully as God loved, as completely. God loved to the point of death. Can we love so much? Or do we pick and choose the ways in which we wish to be Godly?
This passage has always fascinated me, mostly because people skip the huge self-sacrifice it requires from every one of us, and instead use it as a way to model a specific style of living they find to be ideal. That is, the heterosexual patriarchy. A life in which men are men, are loved by submissive women, and deviations on such a lifestyle are condemned. The passage obviously is meant to be a call to a higher way of living more than a condemnation of the opposite- but let’s look more closely at what it condemns:
- Sexual immorality
- Foolish talk
- Coarse joking
- Empty words
Sexual immorality appears to be a vague phrase. It could be so many things- not just deviations from the ideal, as in premarital sex- but an abuse of the ideal. Men who force submission from a wife who isn’t as sexual as they are, for one. Or men who treat their wive’s sexuality with callousness. It is obviously impure to “sin in public”, as some put it- to sin in ways that lead to public shame (pastors having affairs with secretaries, for example) but there are less obvious of sins that are usually not condemned by the church. In fact, there are some types of sexual immorality that are usually treated with a turned eye. Pornography is often tolerated, sexual joking that causes offense leads to a reprimand of the offended, etc. All I’m saying is that if we condemn, we should condemn with equity- and that usually leads to condemnation for all.
Impurity- equally vague.
Greed- tolerated, often even applauded, especially when it comes in the form of an auditorium that seats four thousand and an olympic style gym that’s rarely used. Not that I don’t acknowledge that mega Churches have their place in the grander scheme of things and that they can do a lot of good- some of them do a great deal of good and the world would be a worse place without them. But lets be honest- when we talk about the “work of God” and how “God is calling us to expand” we’re often being dishonest. God probably doesn’t care two figs about the auditorium being fitted with the latest sound equipment, and Jesus would probably want to spend those thousands of dollars on filling empty bellies. Be honest. We are greedy.
Foolish talk, coarse joking and empty words. All I can say is: what did you talk about at the last pot-luck? We all need the times that we just hang out and be human to each other. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of conversation that means little and goes nowhere. That’s how we connect as humans. But we are so caught up in being humans with each other that we forget about our higher calling. The times where we truly act as Christ for each other, truly sacrifice, truly give, truly put others before ourselves become rare to the point of being nearly non-existent.
It would be almost impossible to live as Ephesians cautions one to live all the time, it would take inhuman strength- but we have that, in Christ. Yes, we should play and let our hair down and have fun. We need that. But we also need God, and God only has hands and feet and a mouth with lungs attached when he has us.
Let’s not forget that.