Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (NRSV) states:
25So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not make room for the devil. 28Thieves 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. 29Let 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. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. 31Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. 5:1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, 2and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
This is a pretty good recipe for how to live if we claim to be followers of Christ – regardless of our calling and vocation. Would you agree with that statement? It’s easy to agree with that statement in a general sense isn’t it?
How do we measure up on this? How about those in leadership positions – both in the church in the secular world?
One argument I hear lately is that we didn’t elect this or that politician to be a saint, but rather to get a job done. The implication being that following Jesus’ way is a recipe for failure in the world. Instead, we apparently need people who are opposite of Jesus and his way to run things. We apparently prefer Caesar’s way to Jesus way of running the world. Who doesn’t love a guy on a horse brandishing a sword dripping with blood after all?
Considering that Jesus’ way got him killed, there is a valid argument for that. However, I don’t think Jesus really cared about the same things that our secular leaders do. Jesus wasn’t interested in accumulating power or wealth. He didn’t seem interested in making people fear him. He didn’t care about patriotism or raising an army and crushing the enemy with military might. He didn’t believe that the strong survive. He certainly didn’t believe in the ends justifying the means. He spent time with the lowest levels of society and the outcasts.
I suppose Jesus would never make a good president in America in modern times. But then again, his agenda isn’t about what is best for the nation, but rather the unfolding of the kingdom of God.
Often when I hear arguments defending politicians for their actions or words, some questions come to mind that I like to ask. Given what was said by a politician, would you defend the same words by a politician in the other party? Given the actions of a politician, would you defend those same actions if someone in the other party did them? If someone in the other political party got the same results, said the same things, acted the same way, treated people the same way, would you be defending this person the same way that you are for your favored politician currently? Be honest. Would you do that, or are your excuses really about loyalty to your political party and ideology over anything else.
I ask these questions because I think they relate to the Ephesians text. This passage from Ephesians is in direct contrast to how our world operates and has operated for centuries. This passage of Scripture, though, is radical in nature. It showcases Jesus way against and in opposition to Caesar’s way, the empire’s way. It comes down to this – where does our salvation lie? In Jesus and his way, or in some politician, political party, and their ways focused on strength and the ends justifying the means? Politicians and political parties come and go. But Jesus is eternal. I’ll take my chances with Jesus, thank you very much.