The scripture for this week was Ephesians 5:1-20. However, as I prepared last night and this morning, I could see it was so chock full of truths and discussion topics that there was no way we would get through it. I decided, therefore, to plan on not going beyond verse 14 and to concentrate on verses 1-2.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.That word "therefore," which Paul loves to use to tie his topics together, invited a review of last week's lesson. I took around five minutes of that, summarizing what Paul said in the second half of Chapter 4, which was mainly a number of negative commands. Don't talk like the Gentiles. Don't act like the Gentiles. Don't have futile thoughts like the Gentiles. In place of that, as a positive command, we should be imitators of God. That one statement was sufficient to generate a whole class full of discussion.
How do you imitate God? What are His characteristics? How can we know them? Of course the answer is right in the same verse: Jesus. Jesus, as part of the triune Godhead, shows us what God is like. I threw out the first discussion topic on this: undeserved forgiveness. That's what God did. He forgave us when we didn't deserve it. How do we do that in this modern world, when we are bombarded with messages designed to make us think we are the most important thing in our lives. Forgiveness is not a very popular message these days. Revenge seems to be the preferred M.O.
In addition to forgiving, two other attributes of God that we discussed relative to imitating them are loving and judging. Jesus said the two most important commands are to love God and love our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves. We had a good discussion about these also. Loving is a topic we've covered many times before. Judging, less so. We are told not to judge, lest we be judged, and that we will be judged in the same measure with which we judge. And yet, God judges. If we are to imitate him, wouldn't judging something of someone be part of our portfolio? But how do we do that? This was a great discussion, taking up about half of our time. I don't know that we reached any conclusions, other than this judging can't be done in a right way without divine intervention helping us.
Next week my co-teacher can teach the rest of this section. Or, if he wants, he can probably bring out enough discussion on the next couple of verses to fill an hour.