Some Thoughts on Ephesians Five and the Christian Community

In chapter 4 Paul says to the Ephesians: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God…” But Paul goes on to say “That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.”

Much like he did in chapter 4, in chapter 5 Paul contrasts a life lived in darkness with a life lived in the light. In verses 8-9  Paul writes “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)”

Notice what Paul doesn’t do, he doesn’t simply give a list of rules and regulations, he does not simply say “do this” or “avoid that” rather Paul instructs the Ephesians to become what they are already in Christ. Paul gives shows us how we actually grow and change; we grow when we become who we already are in Christ. In order to do this we must constantly be reminding ourselves of our truest and deepest identity. Yet this is not something we do once. In 5:1 Paul says “follow,” the Greek word that is translated as “follow” comes from the word ginomai, this word could also be translated as “be” or “become.” (This is a bit complicated but the actual word is a present middle imperative.) It is an imperative that implies a lifelong process. This emphasizes the fact that our transformation is an ongoing process of following in the footsteps of Christ. We imitate Christ because the truth is we are/are being transformed into his likeness.

If we are going to imitate Christ we must learn what Christ is like. We must learn to see life the way he did, we must learn to see others the way he did, we must learn to see the Kingdom the way he did. Where do we learn these things? In the gospels. The gospels show us who Christ is and what Christ was like. The process of becoming Christ-like involves spending time at the feet of Jesus, literally being disciple by him through the gospels. However we must be careful not to think that we are transforming ourselves into being Christ-like. We must never think that out of our own efforts we can “imitate God” or “follow God’s example.” The fact is that a life lived in imitation of God is only made possible because we are God’s children. As children of God there is “family resemblance….”

I have a Golden Retriever named Dallas, he’s a little over three years old now so he is kind of still a puppy. I remember the day that I got him, it was a Wednesday morning and we were getting him from a friend. My family wanted a boy dog and not a girl dog and he was the only one left, so we walked into their backyard to check the puppies out. I remember walking over to the dog run and seeing an explosion of puppies. As soon as the puppies heard me walking they exploded out of the dog house and ran over to the gate. They all seemed pretty excited, then all of a sudden another puppy runs out of the dog house and jumps on top of all the other puppies. He starts climbing all over the other one, even standing on top of them trying to climb over the fence. This was Dallas. Dallas showed his cards before we even took him, he would be trouble. So after playing with the puppies a little bit we took home the only boy puppy, Dallas. We got home set him up in the kitchen, gave him some water, some toys, and a training pad then put a puppy fence around his area. I walk out of the room and 2 minutes later I hear a loud crash. Somehow this little puppy knocked over a fence made for 75-100 pound dogs. I put the fence back up and lo and behold a few minutes later he is climbing it and has gotten stuck, now Dallas is crying. After that incident we decided fences couldn’t contain Dallas. Then we tried to teach him to go on walks… this too was a disaster. Actually it wasn’t a disaster, Dallas ended up taking us for walks instead. To tell you the truth his dad was actually like this. His dad was an outside dog, but when he got in he wrecked the house. His dad would knock over kids and old people. His dad was impossible to walk. All this to say that Dallas much like his dad is a trainwreck. Two rambunctious Golden Retrievers…. like father like son. I guess its family resemblance.

Dallas is much like his father. As sons and daughters of the God we are much like our Father, not because we try to resemble our dad but simply because we are a part of his family. My dog doesn’t try to resemble his dad, he just looks and acts like him. The same holds true for us, if we are really like our Father we will begin to look like him.  This resemblance will certainly come out in the way we do community with one another. There won’t be “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, but rather thanksgiving” within our communities, not because we have rules against these things but simply because these things are not a part of our true identities.

This week consider the following questions:

  • In what areas are you growing to resemble your Heavenly Father?
  • How are you encouraging others to grow to resemble your Father?
  • What is it about a community that resembles God and lives Christ-like that is so attractive to non-believers?

Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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