Sunday, November 20: One
Two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a struggling church in Ephesus—a major city in what is now Turkey. Ephesus had a great history. It was the capital of Asia Minor, both politically and economically. It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. It was a major religious center—both a hub for magicians and the location of the largest building in the ancient world, the temple of Artemis.But recent history was challenging the greatness of Ephesus. Specifically, Christians had orchestrated a massive turn from magic, burning magic books worth an estimated 50,000 pieces of silver (50,000 days’ wages). The locals feared economic downturn and unemployment—the movement to Jesus was hurting the magic trade and belittling the significance of Artemis worship. Riots broke out in the street, with people chanting “Make Artemis great again!” (Acts 19:23-34)
Years later, the riots had subsided, but the church was till in trouble. Pressures from the anti-Christian backlash had turned the church against itself. Instead of coming together for the better of their community, the church was embroiled in arguments over race. Was it okay for Jews and Gentiles to eat together? Did the Gentiles have to be circumcised?
Things were changing, both in Ephesus and in the church, and the people needed a vision for moving forward.
In Ephesians 4:17-32, Paul gave them this vision. He challenged them to put off the old self and be renewed in the Spirit of their minds. He then illustrated what that looked like—speaking the truth, being generous, building others up, and being kind.
Things haven’t changed much in 2000 years, and we need to reflect on Paul’s words as much as the Ephesians did. There is much disagreement about where to go next as a country, and a lot to talk about. We need to have these conversations. But as we do, we need to remember what it looks like to take a stand for Jesus—it looks like honesty. It looks like generosity. It looks like words that heal, not hurt. It looks like kindness.
Join us this week as we explore what it looks like to be renewed in the Spirit of our minds! See you on Sunday!