“Speak the Truth!”
Ephesians 4:25-5:2, August 8th, 2021
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Read Statement of Faith
“Hear now these recorded words of a letter written to the Ephesians approximately thirty years after Jesus was crucified.”
Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2
25 So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.
26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil.
28 Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
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.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
31 Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
(Chapter five) 1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
“As we hear these words, written by the Apostle Paul while he was imprisoned, let us consider their meaning: in our own church and in our day to day lives.”
“Speak the Truth!”
When I was a young lad, I was given a pocketknife, a jackknife is what I always called it. I learned to carve little things with it and such. One day I carved my initials in my grandmothers favorite rocking chair. My grandmother was upset and demanded to know who did such a thing! I did not dare to tell her the truth. But I was quickly found out and punished for my misdeed. I do not recollect what became of my prized jackknife. Speaking the truth is not as easy as it sounds, in all situations and at: all times. Even as this is said, as an adult I have learned that telling the truth in all situations is not always the best decision either. Now I am not talking about confessing to a misdeed like I described of what I had done as a youngster. However, if your favorite Aunt or a friend who has you over for dinner asks: “how did you like the casserole I fixed ‘special’ for you at dinner today.” Well… the truth is that it is sometimes prudent and polite to respond, “It was very kind of you to go to such great effort to prepare such a splendid meal. Thank you so very much.” Being polite and bluntly honesty do not always mix. Sometimes a meal may not be all it was hoped to be! (Smilingly said.) Even with a bit of light humor, you do know, of course, we do need to speak of what it means to “speak the truth” even when it is difficult.
The Apostle Paul speaks to the point quite clearly. “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” /Ephesians 4:25/ Absolutely, the young lad needed to learn that lying and doing harm to another’s property was wrong, and a price needs to be paid for such behavior. Of course, he needed to confess his mischief and acknowledge the truth. “I did it with my pocketknife.” But, what of a more serious nature. What if your lie has slandered another person? Or your unwillingness to speak the truth when someone else is being blamed for your misdeed? Social justice is a theme that Jesus pushed during his earthly ministry. A point that the Apostle Paul can not possible have missed. Paul himself was once called Saul and he was feared by the Christians who followed the teachings of Jesus after his crucifixion and resurrection accounts circulated amongst the disciples. Yet, the Living Spirit of Christ Jesus reached out to him and after confronting the man Saul, he was led to Demarcus where a man named Ananias trained him and he was baptized and became known as Paul, the Apostle Paul. Yes indeed, Saul was forgiven his transgressions and came to be a servant of Christ. The Apostle Paul knew full well (first hand) the power of the Spirit’s power and how the love and mercy of God changed him completely. Surely as he wrote this letter, Paul knew how important it was, and is, to seek to win over even sinners of all sorts. “Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.” /Ephesians 4:28/ There is a place for everyone, despite the prejudice and bias against them. We even accepted Saul, renamed Paul, to be a leader in the movement of the new ‘Way”, the movement we now call Christianity!
Or perhaps the truth is you think it is unjust the way someone is being treated but you dare not speak your truth on their behalf?! What then? Can we dare to tell the truth? Are we truly willing to stand up and speak the truth? Not getting caught in a lie, is one thing. Holding back the truth… when it could help another is a whole different thing. “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children.” /Ephesians 5:1/ Paul was willing to call a lie a lie, and a thief a thief. He was not telling us to shy away from the truth, but rather confront the truth for what it is, while still living up to the principles of forgiveness which Christ taught. Christ would forgive the thief, the liar, but tell them to “go and sin no more!” Just as Christ called the Apostle Paul to ministry, so does Christ call each one of us to service in the universal church of Christ Jesus! Who amongst us is willing to speak truth, ‘at all times’ and in ‘all’ prayers situations? You and me, we live in the Twenty-First Century, a time of great advancements! A time of great successes and, sadly, equally great failures! A time when the world we are in has been forced to face its powerlessness over Mother Nature! This pandemic has been a living proof of this truth! It is utterly amazing how many still feel that we, mere humans, have the power to ‘control’ the actions of the forces of nature. From the beginning of time, humankind has resisted this stark reality! During a thunderstorm it is shocking that there are those who would tell you the sky is blue, and the sun is shining! Because of the pandemic, supply chains and the process of commerce at many levels have been disturbed. Home prices here in Florida and in many other areas of the country have increased a great deal. The cost of home rentals is out of reach by even a greater many. As many are facing eviction, who shall speak for them, as many will not be able to afford a proper home?
Why is the truth important? Why again did the Apostle Paul wrote of it from his prison cell? Hear again his words: “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” /Ephesians 4:25/ Again Paul reminds us that “for we are members of one another.” Consequently, this is the heart of the matter as to why… the truth is so very important! If we lie to one another, we hurt that which we hold dear. Our lies hurt us, and we ourselves become the victims. This is true at any level of relationship we look carefully at. Conversely, when we follow The Apostle Paul’s writing closely, we see how we can most effectively reverse this. This is especially true between individuals, and small groups like churches and such. It is true in the communities we live and the country we are a part of. Envision for a moment what Paul is suggesting. Verses thirty-one and two. “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.” Did you hear what Paul said! Stop bickering and slandering one another! Can you fathom how awesome it would be if we all, everyone who lives in Palm Bay Florida abided by this statement!? Expand that to Indian River County as well. Ah, Heck, what if all of Florida, all who reside here, what if we were all truthful in all things, displaying kindness, tenderheartedness and we forgave each other for past wrongs! Let this image be an ideal we all seek to strive for! Let this ideal spread throughout the United States and beyond, spreading around the world!
When, and where, might we commit to being “imitators of God.”? When ought we speak out about being kind? Where might we find others who will listen to the truth, as written in Paul’s letter; and then having them grasp the full meaning of this lesson ‘without slanting’ it to their own wants and desires? The answers are daunting to say the least. Truthfully, NOW is the time. You and me, we can start something new in our lives, in our families and in our communities. We can commit to being more kind, more loving to everyone around us. Especially those whom we may disagree with and totally misunderstand or simple do not understand at all! That’s the challenge. How are we to imitate Christ? Well let’s start with the honesty part. We need to be honest with ourselves and with God. We ought to be honest with our family and our friends. Furthermore, we need to be honest with those we interact with… at every level of our society and social system. Christ was also a kind and compassionate man. He cared about the wellbeing of those he encountered as he set out to do his work, his ministry. Kindhearted is another way to see the example Jesus left for us to follow. We can strive to love others the way God loves us. God’s love is boundless and infinite! Now that is a challenge worthy of the effort!
How did Paul start this lesson? And with what challenging words did he ask us to consider his message? First he gives us permission to be human and get angry about ‘whatever it is! “Be angry but do not sin;” /Ephesians 5:26a/Then he puts a condition on our anger. It must be short lived! “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” /Ephesians 5:26b/ I must agree with what many of you are thinking: “That’s virtually impossible to do!” I know just how hard this is to take in. We all know the truth of this! Following in the footsteps of the Son of God, is not easy! The challenge for all of us is to trust God, believing God will give us the strength and courage to alter how we respond to others. As Christians we are expected to study these ancient writings and glean what we can from them to enhance our lives, as God fearing people. If the Apostle’s writing of how Christ wants us to live is correct, there is still a lot of work to do. The good news is we only need work on it today. Secondly, we need not do it alone. God, the Spirit of the Living God is here to assist us. How difficult will it be to get others to understand Paul’s writing as we have discussed it today? You listen to the news. There is a lot of room for improvement! And that is the truth! And that is our challenge. May God bless our sincerity and the efforts!