Sunday 5


Ephesians 4 v 17-  32;
Mark 1 v 29- 39

Whatever you’re opinion about Brexit or the activities of Donald Trump the one thing that seems to be a truism is that both subjects get people talking. If you’re like my family the discussions can become extremely heated, but not because we oppose one another. Strangely this is not true when we discuss faith despite him not sharing my deeply held beliefs. Considering why this was so I decided it was because I can control the one situation but not the others, and so my frustration plays a huge part.

My decisions and understanding about my faith are for me to make, and I am in control with God’s help, of all the situations I find myself in: whether easy or not. 

With so many situations this is simply not true.

However much they are discussed or however strongly you feel so often they seem totally beyond the control of the individual. But as I wrote I began to wonder is this really quite as true as I feel? Is there a better way for us to use all this pent up energy?

Our first reading this evening from Ephesians is all about finding a new life, with and in Jesus Christ. It is about understanding what that truly means, and all that this may entail for us as individuals.

As is so often the case, in this letter to the Ephesians, Paul message is twofold.

Firstly he gives us the teaching and then shows us how this is relevant to our lives. The fact that the letters were written so long ago does not detract from their relevance.

Paul is at this time in prison, so not able to address these Christians in person. As a result he keeps his letter direct and practical so as not to lose his audience. Throughout this passage he is continually contrasting what he believes Jesus’ teaching means for our everyday lives.

Paul continually compares people’s old lives with the new that they are to experience. He quotes Jesus’ words “Put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires”.

Paul gives many examples – he who has been stealing must steal no longer; put off falsehood and speak truthfully; get rid of any form of malice, rage and anger, brawling and slander.

At this point it would be so easy to say – well I don’t do those things so I am fine.

But wait - what about “let nothing unwholesome come out of your mouth? In your anger do not sin. Perhaps you see these as more relevant.

Although I did not grow up in what was considered a Christian household it was a golden rule that we never left another family member angry or went to bed without putting problems to right. In fact these were such strong principles that they became part of my own family ethos. Certainly, I believe they are principles to be shared with everyone.

Paul continues “Anger can hurt others and destroy relationships. If bottled up it can make us bitter and destroy ourselves from within”.

I have previously quoted Jesus’ words “Put off your old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires”.

But Jesus had continued “be made new in the attitude of your mind and put on a new life”

Paul makes it clear that we should deal with our anger and what has created it, immediately. Resolve the differences, remove the problem, for if we do not we are opening the door for the devil to make an impression on our behaviour and our lives.

In fact no where will you find a teaching in the Bible that suggests we should never get angry, but we are given clear guidelines as to how we should deal with and handle this anger.

Most of all if the anger is justified then we must find a positive manner in which to use it to correct the injustice.

This brings me back to my introduction: are you finding yourself deep in difficult discussions, angry by what is happening in our world?

Do you feel helpless to do anything positive which might change what is happening?

Our faith in Jesus, our desire to follow his teaching is the way in which we are to make a new life for ourselves. The more we trust God to guide our lives, the more we are able to control the manner in which we live.

Jesus gave us the teaching to follow, and he died that we might find forgiveness when we fail.

How much better then is this new life?    

Take this thought even further.

We are members of a new community, a big community, the biggest in the world. Surely this must mean that if we follow Jesus’ teaching then our influence must be enormous.

As individuals we will be ineffective and frustrated, as members of Christ’s community we have a far greater hope.

The last sentence of our passage from Paul’s Letter says “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgive each other, just as God forgave you.”

How can this help us deal with our modern world?

If we take every opportunity to be kind and compassionate this will improve our own lives because we will be focussing beyond ourselves and our desires, and it will definitely improve the lives of those with whom we are dealing.

If we forgive others for their failings we will be forced to recognise that we too fail, and only in this recognition are we able to humbly ask for God’s forgiveness. We may accept and know that this is the way God chooses to behave towards us, but to accept this level of love we must be aware of the depth of what it is we ask.

This is the very last point Paul makes in our teaching this evening, God does forgive us through his love as “Our Father”.   God loves all of his creation and is endlessly saddened by what man does to it. Through his Son Jesus we are offered another way.  A new life, a better life. A life that offers us not just new guidelines but opportunities.  If we accept this new life we become members of a worldwide community through which we can have an enormous, positive effect.

Yes, we may still find ourselves angry, but by using that anger in the correct way we can have a positive effect. We will not be wasting our energy but using it positively.

We must pray for guidance and the strength of the Holy Spirit that we may, through Christ’s teaching, become part of a force for good across the world.