But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. Ephesians 4: 15-16
There is no denying we are in particularly polarizing times. I do spend a little time on Facebook and, occasionally, follow those threads on political adds for those running for President. I am always disheartened at how quickly comments dissolve into terrible name-calling, the intentional giving of offense, the questioning of the intelligence of others, etc. But it also sometimes happens on the pages of friends of mine and, though not typically ugly, the tension there is often palpable. And it is not just Facebook or Twitter, obviously; we see signs of division, anger, intolerance, and bitterness on many fronts in the world today and a staggering lack of imagination and empathy displayed on the part of elected officials, leaders in public and communal life, etc. We do see, perhaps, just enough kindness (as we are reminded there is still much goodness in the world) to keep us from leaping into the abyss of despair.
Paul was dealing with division in the many of the Christian communities to which he was writing, from Corinth to Galatia to Rome. Yet over and over again Paul reminds them, and all of us today, that we are joined together by the greatness of God and the endless amounts of mercy and grace that He has given us in Christ Jesus. He encourages us, above, to speak “the truth in love.” What does that really mean, for Christians? Well, he reminds us, earlier in the passage from today’s reading (Ephesians 4:1-16) that we are connected to each other by virtue of our Baptism and because Christ died for all, binding us together in love, no one is to be discarded. We can speak the truth to others, as we see it, but it must be done in and with love. How does that change the calculus? It means that name calling, divisive language, angry rhetoric – anything that is not trying to build up the Body of Christ who died and rose for us – is to be banished from our lives and, with work, from our hearts, too. We can all sigh, shake our heads, and push the “unfriend” button on FB when someone disagrees with us. Some may even stop speaking to family members who say things that they feel cannot be tolerated. And while it may be necessary to take breaks from folks, if we need to, Paul, Apostle of Christ, reminds us that we are called to build up God’s community in love, patience, energy, and hope which must be our continual mainstays in our dealing with God’s children. Paul says it best, in Ephesians 4: 1-3:
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.