The sermon this week was on Ephesians 5: Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.7 Therefore do not be partners with them.
The sermon was great and had many points that were relevant to me and that I will continue to think about and pray about. My biggest take away was when the preacher shared how there are certain things in the church ministry that can bring down the community. He shared that he puts safeguards and barriers on the top three things that are identified as bringing down the church ministry. His examples were finances (he doesn’t know who gives or how much and instead has a weekly financial report overall but doesn’t want it to taint how he treats each individual member), laziness (he and his staff have office hours, put in for vacation, etc.) and sex (he has two people that immediately receive notification if he were to go to certain websites on his personal iPad, phone, etc. and he will not be alone in a car or anywhere with a female). These are just quick examples of extreme lengths he has gone to in order to put barriers so that the top offenders don’t ruin his relationship with the church.
This got me to thinking about my most important relationships. I am going to take some time first to identify these things in my life that have the power to ruin my relationships. On my run yesterday I started thinking about it in three categories. My family, my friends, my work. David and I are going to identify the top things that could ruin our relationship from both of us. They might be different for each of us, but we are going to honestly identify them and set up those barriers so that we can’t falter. I want to do the same things with my friends and at work.
For work, I can tell you that stress and insecurity are at the top of the list. I worry and second guess a lot that I do. I try not to talk too much about it outside of work, but my job is pretty stressful and I have a boss that isn’t always the easiest person to understand or please (*she is a wonderful person and boss, I just have my struggles as anyone does. This isn’t anything bad about her, it’s my own insecurities.).
For my relationship with my friends, I can tell you right now that among the offenders will be jealousy/competition, busy-ness, and gossip. My father in law talked to me recently about how as his kids were born and his sister started having children, he decided right then that he was going to be nothing but happy for his nieces and nephews. Bam. Right there if you decide that you don’t have room for competition, jealousy, or gossip. I want to love my friends and their kids in this way always because I know my friends and know they are doing their very best at parenting. I want to celebrate every detail of their children with them without comparing Annabelle, worrying, or jealousy.
You see, the beginning of this chapter in Ephesians says that we should walk in the way of love, just as Jesus did. Are the things I’m saying and doing portraying love? If I am gossiping to a friend about something, am I demonstrating love? If I am too busy to meet a friend for coffee, am I demonstrating love to that friend? If I am jealous of someone else’s vacation am I showing love? I feel like something clicked for me yesterday. If you are demonstrating love, there isn’t much room left for gossip, greed, mean words, or laziness. This will be a constant battle, but I am going to try to work on these situations and try my hardest to first demonstrate love – then there won’t be time for the other things that God says shouldn’t even be spoken of in our presence. I would never want anyone to think of me and associate greed, envy, jealousy, or gossip above love. There’s not room or time for all of it.
Our friend lost their ten month old daughter a couple of months ago. They are choosing joy every day. They are open and share their joy with others. If they can choose joy, I can choose love. That’s what I plan to do. Sounds simple enough.