Let us pray: Dear Savior, today open our hearts to animate our bodies so that we can live up to our high calling as Christians! Move us to get rid of all the emotional garbage we carry around, especially our inner rage and anger towards others. Yes, cause us to think of You and to look to You first for forgiveness and secondly for a guiding example as to how to have a blessed life. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 30-5:2
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
When was the last time you cried? Can you even recall? The fact is: tears are so common and some of us so easily tear up during any emotional event, that it’s difficult to pin-point the last time you cried. The last time I shed deep-seated tears of grief was upon hearing of my brother-in-laws passing. It was a relief as he was in heaven. But the emotional loss hit me and my extended family.—I cried for them. Also, a few months back I cried at my mother’s funeral. I shed tears, not so much from sadness as she was happily in glory, but from the emotional jumble that the service and especially the music evoked. We cry during sad times. We cry during happy times. It’s our emotional response to deeply felt feelings, isn’t it?
We all know that our God, in the person of Jesus Christ, cried. Who doesn’t know the shortest passage in all Scripture: “Jesus wept.”? Yes, He cried at the grave of His beloved friend, Lazarus. Today we gain even more insight into God’s kind heart. It comes in the very first sentence of our lesson: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The word that St. Paul uses there means this in the Greek language: “pain, grieve, injure, be sad, sorrowful, distressed, or weep.” With that in mind:
HAVE YOU MADE THE HOLY GHOST CRY THIS WEEK?
Personally, I find it comforting that we have a God Who cares so much for us that He even cries over us. I also find that fact very, very sobering. To think that I can make God Almighty weep over what I do or say is a very adult-like thought. To imagine Him weeping tears of joy over something in my life is amazing and uplifting. But, to imagine Him crying over whatever I’ve done to hurt Him, others, or myself is crushing. And if it’s not crushing for you, then you better work very hard at softening your hard heart.
Obviously all sins hurt the Spirit. But St. Paul keys in on a few specific ones that cause Him to grieve over us. Let’s review them. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” Bitterness can be directed either at people or at life in general. Either way bitterness mocks and denigrates the work of the Spirit. For His work is to bless us and work holiness within. His work is to pour His gifts of: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” upon us. A bitter heart spits upon those blessings.
We all know the term: “road rage.” Well, here Paul couples rage together with anger in general. Now, we should not include righteousness anger in this equation. After all, being upset about evil against God or others is a natural response for the believer and even for God, Himself. No, this is the selfish, perverted, out-of-control, “how dare you stand up to me, I’m right” type. In short, get rid of self-destructive anger unless you want to lose not only your joy over life, but also your own soul.
Next, Paul couples together “brawling and slander.” That’s an interesting combination. Brawling usually means physical, violent confrontations with another. Or, forcing your will upon another through violence. Slander means using language that cuts, hurts, tears down, belittles, and mocks. It’s either outright falsehood or half-truths twisted around to destroy another inside. Such language boomerangs, however, and actually reveals the twisted heart of the one speaking it. And then, just to summarize it all, Paul throws in: “every form of malice.” Malice comes from the Latin word: “malus” with means evil. In short, we need to watch what we say so that our motives are never tainted with evil intent. Snide comments or put-downs done with a wink or a smile are still malice-driven.
This kind of behavior grieves the Spirit and causes Him to cry. Think about it. All of His energy is directed toward remaking and remolding us into new, holy creations. All of His work is about lifting us up and causing us to let God’s grace shine forth from our hearts and lives. Dousing that light with malicious words or behavior is akin to saying to the Spirit: “You’re a fool.” And that grieves and cuts Him to the core of His being. It says: “He’s worthless.”
Have you and I ever made the Holy Spirit cry? Of course we have. So did St. Paul. Likewise, all earthbound believers. And yet, our God is so patient and love-filled He still gives us a new way to change our behavior. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators or 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.”
I like the word: compassionate. It comes from two common words: “passion” and “com” or: “with” or “along side of.” In other words, sharing in those deep-seated emotional outpourings with another human being, yes, literally feeling their pain with them is a wondrous thing. And couple that with “being kind,” or actively showing love towards them and being involved in lovingly assisting them, is a potent mix against malice. Paul also includes the basis for such behavior, since it is foreign to our naturally selfish, sin-tainted heart. “Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Does forgiveness come to us naturally? By that, I don’t mean the fake kind which mouths the words: “I forgive you” just to smooth things over. No, true forgiveness stems from a heart which feels to its depths: “I’ve hurt another, I’ve hurt myself, I’ve made a mockery of Christ’s work in dying for my sins, and since He could let go of all that pain by paying for it with His life, I should and will let go of this or that slight against me.” Obviously, that kind of forgiveness can only come from a heart which clings to Jesus and is totally humbled. It can only come from a heart into which the Spirit has poured God’s grace, or His loving-kindness via Jesus Christ. This new heart is the Spirit’s gift to you by faith.
Imitating other humans can and will get you into trouble. That’s because we’re not inclined towards total goodness since we’re sinners at heart. But imitating God can and will alleviate an upset life and an upset heart. So, don’t be afraid to practice self-sacrifice towards others. It brought joy to Christ and joy to the Spirit. Therefore, as God’s child it must bring joy to you, as well. Amen