Season After Pentecost (Proper 14[19]) – The Epistle Passage: When sins are deep

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.
Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.
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.
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.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:25 – 30)

Lying, sinful rage, stealing, evil talk – that is quite a list that Paul has started here. While I do not like reading a list of all the terrible things a person can do, what I do appreciate (if that is a sentiment that fits with this topic) is that all of these sins are ones that start with our thoughts and attitudes. Because if it not the human body that is inherently sinful but the human mind and spirit. Yes, we can direct our bodies to do all sorts of actions; but the starting point is always the intent to be contrary to the law of love. And, as Paul so eloquently puts it, to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. That, I think, is the greatest sin. Know what will displease the Divine and doing it anyway. Unfortunately it is a common trait amongst humanity. We may not at the time or in the moment realize what we have done, but the outcome is the same.

“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.” (Verses 31 – 32)

And from grieving the Divine it is a short step to causing pain etc for others. Or it may be that causing upset to others is the first intention, and that what it does to the Divine Spirit is a secondary outcome. Doesn’t really matter which end you start at in sinning – the Divine or your fellow human – the end outcome is the same.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Chapter 5, verses 1 – 2)

It does, but it should not, amaze me how many ways we can go wrong in living in this life. And I am including myself. Even if you think you are following Paul’s good examples and teachings as the above, you can still “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” Did you think, beloved reader, that if you do as Paul says as above you would be sin free? (I know I am being tough here, but bear with me.) Verses 31 to 32 tells us what should avoid doing. But it is the first two verses of chapter 5 that set the benchmark. We may do all the right things and be caring gracious people, and yet miss the mark of being “imitators of God” and being “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. Does that mean we should give up and not try? By no means!!!

Let me tell you, sinning does not take away the “seal for the day of redemption”. And grieving the Holy Spirit of God does not mean we are lost forever. Throughout this passage Paul is talking about what his readers/audience had done. It is not a condemnation, not a “you missed up so all is lost.” It is an exhortation to see what humanity has done and to mend its ways. If we have grieved the Holy Spirit, we can also make the Holy Spirit rejoice when we set ourselves the task of being the best imitator of God that we can be.

Yes, our sins may be deep. But we are not stuck in that depth. We are not condemned to live at a depth of sin so great that we are lost to the Divine. Take courage, beloved reader. Christ loved us enough to give up himself so that we might be saved and redeemed. Even if we have to be re-saved and re-redeemed every day. The depth of the Divine’s love is deeper than the deepest of any sin. Selah!

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