Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practise every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
It would be very interesting to hear how Paul preached to a new set of people. We know he preached the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but did he also tell them the stories of Jesus’ actions and words which we presume he heard from those who had met Jesus in human flesh?
Here in his letter to the Ephesians, he seems unsure of what they have learned because they do not seem to have learned anything from Jesus’ teachings, or at least, not enough to have changed their lives completely. They have not had a complete change of heart and mind which surely should show in the way they live their lives. Their hearts are hard; they enjoy the things of the body far too much, in fact they are behaving like those around them who have not heard of Jesus.
Paul is saying here that it takes a complete new mindset to follow the way of Christ and a change of heart. It’s an interesting thought that the two are separate; you would think that one would change the other and this is what Paul seems to say. Hardness of heart has made Gentiles ignorant, literally, “not knowing”. Presumably he is using the word “gentile” to mean those who have not received the good news, rather than those who are not Jews.
What would Paul think of us today? I hope he would not find us hard-hearted and callous. I hope he would see the love in our churches which should be the fruit of the knowledge we have of Jesus, rather than ignorance of him. Perhaps as a precaution, we should look back at the teaching about Jesus we have received and measure ourselves up to it. See if the new body is better than the old!
Lord, Preserve us from being hard-hearted and bigoted. In our lives we should reflect the likeness of Jesus to those around us. Help us to do this and keep our minds in the love and knowledge of him and his teachings. Amen
Chris Eddowes, elder and lay preacher, St. George’s URC Hartlepool