Children have to learn everything. And I mean, everything. I often find myself at the dinner table with my young grandchildren lecturing them on the finer points of etiquette. You know, refined things like: don’t use your fingers, keep your feet off the table, we don’t need to scream the “Paw Patrol” theme song, and even, um… I’m not even sure I know how to say it without being offensive... Uh… This is awkward… Hang on…
You see, somehow, my grandchildren have come to believe that rude body noises are hilarious. And they have yet to learn that you can’t… Flatulate? Is that the word? I’ve had to explain to my little people that you can’t flatulate at the dinner table.
The point is that human children have to learn everything, including where and when it’s okay to… you know.
And the same thing is true for children of God. When someone becomes a believer, they often have a lifetime filled with experiences that are different from those of long-time Christians. And how do different groups of people from various perspectives and with different standards of behavior become a unified Christian community? Well, the book of Ephesians gives some great guidelines for community life based on our identity as children of God. Since we are equally God’s children, this requires an attitude of mutual respect and self-discipline.
Paul describes the moral requirements of our behavior by placing certain actions off-limits. He writes that our conduct must be free from sexual immorality and impolite speech before he goes on to say that we must be filled with things like thanksgiving, truth, and goodness. These standards require that we make some changes in our own actions, a radical idea in both the first and the twenty-first centuries.
The idea of changing our actions for the benefit of others needs to be learned, taught, and reminded from time to time. Paul is helping the Ephesian church, and us as well, see how we can all get along as God’s beloved children. One key phrase that he uses in chapter 5, verse 8: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light”
I find the final phrase very challenging, and, at the same time, very comforting. When I look at the word light, and understand it as a focus on the moral perfection of God and the goodness of character He requires, it challenges me to be a better person. It brings me to confess my sin, seek forgiveness, and make restitution for any wrongs that I’ve done.
The idea of “light” can often be overwhelming, because I’m not perfect. When I feel overwhelmed, there is also an aspect of comfort in this idea. Because Christians are children of light. You see, when God looks at us, he sees beloved children. And, yes, we might break wind at the table from time to time, but what he wants is for us to underline both children and light.
This changes the way we see ourselves and it changes the way we see each other. And this is foundational to our life together as a community of faith.