Our text this week places a high calling on the people of God. Two of them in fact. The text ends with the urging to be imitators of God. It is difficult to imagine a higher calling than that. But this is why we spend most of our lives in the process of knowing God. As we worship, we are introduced to the attributes of God. God is . . . We explore these ideas not just so that we can know and worship God better, but so that we can seek these same attributes in ourselves and our community. We might as well admit that we will come closer to imitating God if we do it collectively, if we support one another in the effort to be more loving, more holy, more righteous, because that is how we experience God.
Worship could be full of these attributes of God. We could sing about how we experience the love of God, the grace of God, the comforting presence of God. We could pray for new and deeper experiences of God in our daily lives and in ourselves as we seek to live out our call to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. How we present God in our interactions with people will reveal what we really think of who God is. We can tell stories of knowing God through the care of a parent or the support of a friend. We can testify to the presence of God supporting us as we reached out to help a neighbor or even a stranger in need around us.
We tell these stories or we share testimony as a way of learning about how God acts in and through the lives of others. We do that, not just so that we can rejoice with them in their experience of God, but so that we can learn to recognize God’s presence and the Spirit’s urging in our own lives. God is always acting in and through the people of God, but we haven’t always learned to recognize it. So, when we share those stories, we give language to human experiences of all sorts to help us acknowledge the divine presence in our lives.
But perhaps the most important attribute, at least in the text and in our world today, some would argue, is truth telling. The text begins with a call to be people of the truth. “Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors . . .” (Eph. 4:25) We often read such a verse and think it must be talking about some deep, profound truth, like Jesus Christ is Lord! And it is that, but not only that. It is truth in general. In a world so caught up in lies and deceit, to be committed to the truth – because we follow one who said of himself “I am the truth” – is to be countercultural in a profound way. We are the ones who choose not to perpetuate lies, who have put away falsehood so that we can claim truth in all our encounters. We are seekers after truth; we don’t pass on opinions because they sound like truth; we seek the truth because God is a God of truth.
In the middle of the text, we have a catalog of behaviors that can shape our interactions with one another and the world. We might be challenged as we gather for worship to make sure that all our dealings with the world are governed by such things as kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness and that we put away wrath and anger and slander. This should be true whether in person or online. How do we measure our encounters with the world? Do we seek to be people of truth? Do we seek to imitate God? Indeed, this second part of the letter to the Ephesians runs the risk of meddling in our lives, because this is more than just what we think; it is also what we do. “Be imitators of God, beloved children.”
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.