I was reading Ephesians 5 yesterday, and I was really hit hard by some of it. Paul gives a small list of things that are essentially prohibited. Some of the items on the list are are more blatantly (at least outwardly) avoided, but others seem to have become more acceptable. Here is the list:
- Sexual immorality
- Foolish talk
- Crude joking
I am not entirely sure what Paul means exactly by “foolish talk”, but I as for coveting, crude joking, and idolatry, these have become quite acceptable in the church today. Most of us have no problem wanting things that we do not have, especially when our friend gets some awesome new thing that we really wish we had too. And even within Christian circles, I have heard the “that’s what she said” jokes (and even participated in it) countless times.
What hit me hardest was how Paul frames these things. He does not merely suggest that those in the church try to not do those things. He goes so far as to say that those things should not even be named among them! And, look at how he ends this:
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Ephesians 5:3-5 (ESV)
Paul views these things incredibly seriously. Do you think most of the church is taking these things seriously? I don’t think so. And I know that I certainly don’t either. Our culture is sexually immoral, impure, covetous, full of crude joking, full of idolatry. It is all around us and unavoidable, and it is too easy to take part in. But, if we are to heed the authority of the Bible, we must strive for this.
What do you think? How are we supposed to understand what Paul is saying here? How do we do this practically? How do we foster this type of environment in our gatherings with other people? What is a healthy way to “do” these things without being legalistic about it? To what level should these commands be enforced?
Lastly, there is much more that Paul has to say about Christian living in Ephesians. These verses are best understood in a fuller context, so I encourage you to read all of Ephesians, or at least read 4:17 through the end of chapter 5.