12th Sunday after Pentecost 12th August 2018

Ephesians 4:25, 27 5:1-2

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbour, for we are all members of one body,and do not give the devil a foothold.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

            I remember when I first became aware of politics and politicians, didn’t really pay much attention when I was young. It was in 2007 when the two big names were John Howard and Kevin Rudd. For the first time after seeing a few of their on screen appearances, I wondered, ‘why are they mostly just saying that the other person/team is bad?’ As I paid more attention over the last ten or so years it seems this slandering of others has grown. Basically to the point that I don’t really know what politicians actually promise except that it’s the opposite of whatever the other politician wants. I even made the mistake of watching question time.

            That’s just one example of slander, and insults. Throughout my life I’ve seen, experience and probably joined in on this practise in our society; beginning at home, school, sports, and work. Slander, false accusation, is part and parcel of this sinful world, and that makes sense. That word in verse 27 translated ‘devil’ is diabolos, or slanderer. In Hebrew the word translated satan is accuser or adversary, and that is what satan, the devil is. He tempts us into sin and when we fall he condemns us to death because of our sin, the devious part is that he lies saying that God could never forgive us and that we couldn’t be saved by Jesus. Accusing us and slandering the cross and Christ’s words of truth for you; ‘my blood for the forgiveness of your sin.’ Slander is fundamental to this world under the power of sin. What does this mean when we falsely accuse someone else?

            When we speak false and malicious words about each other, or anyone else for that matter, we are walking in the way of the devil. But you have been baptised! You have been cleansed of your sin and have put off that old sinful self, died with Christ to sin and now are alive in Him. You are, together with all Christians, one with Christ, holy and saved and walking in His way. Why would you give this up and return to the way of the world, the life that leads to death? Actually, why would we leave a life of peace, love, forgiveness and kindness for a life of anger, bitterness and malice?

            But that’s what each and every one of us does, what every follower of Christ here on earth has done and will do. That is our struggle with sin, our weakness. Elsewhere Paul writes of the thorn in his flesh, the weakness of his through which Christ’s strength is displayed; and also of the Christians earthly struggle with our corrupt and sick nature (2 Corinthians 12:6-8; Romans 7). And here in his letter to the Ephesians, what does Paul tell us? We are to stop speaking falsely and are to speak the truth to those around us, to not sin in our anger, to not give any ground to the devil, the slanderer, to build up and speak grace to those hearing and not grieve the Holy Spirit of God; to let all anger, bitterness, and malice be removed from you and be imitators of Christ, walking in love. To let malice be removed? Huh, I wonder who removes it if we don’t? The Holy Spirit, who we grieve when we reject Him; and Christ in whom we are forgiven and into whom we are baptised and renewed. It is God who takes away our sin, who forgives us and loves us. And it is He who we grieve and make ourselves the enemy of when we slander His Son, when we sin.

            God has saved you through the blood of Christ from death and has forgiven your sin. Paul tells us to be like God, who is kind, merciful, forgiving and loves you His child. We are to imitate Christ, walking in love and giving Himself up for you. We can’t imitate Jesus if He hadn’t done it first, and we can’t be like God if He hadn’t revealed Himself to us. God acts first, then we respond. He has saved you and taken away your sin, you are holy in His eyes. Now, because of Him, we imitate Christ, we walk in the way of God acting like Him who saved us. Not like the slanderer, the accuser, the father of lies, who lead us before in malice and to death in our sin. Christ has saved you, don’t forget the truth.

The peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham

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