Thursday, September 3, 2015

Works and holiness


Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:29-32 (NRSV)

This passage of scripture is not about salvation. It is about our Christian works, which define our Christian walk. There is a simple allegory for this passage of scripture. Parents often tell children to clean up their rooms. And, when children clean their rooms and put away their toys and clothes, the children generally find that life is a bit easier. Their belongings do not get lost when everything is in its proper place. Children should be the primary beneficiary of a clean bedroom, not the parent. In a similar way, this passage of scripture tells us that as we strive to do the right things, we are building up and imparting grace to others. We, the body of Christ, are the primary beneficiaries of good works.

To continue the allegory, maintaining a clean room is an ongoing process. Parents do not tell their children to clean their rooms, and then the rooms are clean for the rest of their lives. Similarly, our lives are a work in progress, from the moment of our birth until our mortal bodies die. Verse 31 says that we must put away all bitterness, and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander. We must put away all of these things, just like a child puts away his toys. It does not mean that all bitterness and wrath are eradicated from our lives. It means that we make attempts to control and corral these destroying spirits. When toys and clothes are put away or gotten rid of, there is room for new toys and new clothes. When we put away bitterness and anger, we make room for love, joy peace patience, kindness goodness gentleness and self-control.

Striving for holiness is not striving for God’s approval or salvation. God has already deemed us worthy through Christ for salvation. Striving for holiness is cleaning up our rooms so that we can make room for the fruits of the spirit.