Consistency in the Christian Life
Open Your Bible
Ephesians 5:15-21, Amos 5:4-15, Colossians 3:12-17
BY Jen Yokel
It’s easy to move through life, more or less, in an automatic way. Sometimes, it’s even essential. Consider small children learning how to walk, one wobbly step at a time, with lots of falling down in between. With practice, the wobbles turn into muscle memory, and soon they learn more complicated moves, like running or dancing. Or take a moment to think about your breathing. It’s going on all the time, but most of us rarely notice, even though this automatic action is literally keeping us alive.
But if you’ve ever had a respiratory illness, even mild one, you know how it feels to work for breath. And if you’ve ever arrived home at the end of your work day with no memory of the trip there, you can recognize how the complex, dangerous movement of driving a car needs an attention check now and then. In some ways, the Christian life is kind of like that too. Our basic life skills of kindness, gentleness, and peacemaking are mostly invisible to us, and the muscle memory we must develop begins somewhere deep in our hearts.
As his letter to the Ephesians winds down, Paul ends with some of his customary pastoral advice: “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live—not as unwise people but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). He has given some practical advice and will continue to get more specific, but a list of things to avoid and behaviors to modify isn’t the answer. When it comes down to it, Paul’s instruction to “pay attention and be wise” is at the core of this message; it’s what we really need to know.
God desires good for us. Good, not evil. Life, not death. We can learn to live into this goodness through deepening our wisdom and keeping our minds sharp. We learn how to stay sober when we’re tempted toward distraction and numbing, cultivate generosity instead of reckless living, and practice gratitude instead of grasping for more. And this wisdom shapes our whole lives, from the inside out. Even if we don’t feel like we are doing great things for God, we can still “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). In our work, in our play, in our worship, in our chores, we receive God’s generosity and share it with each other.
It’s not easy. Neither is walking, at first. But as we pay attention to the way one foot moves in front of the other, it won’t be long before we can dance. It’s the same with living out the goodness God wants for us, as the flourishing kingdom takes root in our hearts, transforming us for abundant life.