Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Law of Love

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body." (Ephesians 4:25)

Paul has repeatedly said that we are to live in love with one another. Now that he gets down to the practical details, he touches on almost all of the Ten Commandments. This shows us that God’s Law was always intended as a rule of love for the community of His people. That is what the Law meant at Mount Sinai, and that is what it means today.

Paul starts with the ninth commandment, saying believers must always tell the truth to one another. The Bible amplifies this by teaching us not to engage in gossip and showing us that in wartime, it is sometimes appropriate to deceive the enemy in order to preserve life. Paul says that we should tell the truth because we are members of one body—if we lie, we are actually lying to ourselves.

Then Paul goes to the sixth commandment, telling us that anger is appropriate on some occasions, but not to let the sun go down on our wrath. Anger is usually a response to pain, disappointment, and frustration. Ultimately, in our hearts we know that our anger is often directed against God because He has not caused things to turn out the way we wanted them to. Sometimes we are righteously angry at the wicked deeds of other people, or angry with ourselves.

We are not to go to bed without resolving our anger. In the Levitical law, if a man became unclean, he was to wash himself before sundown. The evening sacrifice removed his uncleanness. Similarly, we are to go to God with our anger and turn matters over to Him before we go to bed. That is to be our evening sacrifice, which removes the distress of our anger.

Then Paul turns to the eighth commandment. Christians must not steal, and those who have acquired a habit of stealing must break it. The cure for the habit is twofold. First, the thief must learn to work productively, and second, he must give to the poor. Giving breaks the psychology of stealing. In biblical law, as we find it in Exodus 22:3, a thief is not put into prison, but is put to work to make restitution. In this way, he learns a productive skill and is retrained as a useful member of society.

Which of the Ten Commandments is dealt with in Ephesians 5:3–7? 5:16? 5:19–20? 5:21–6:9? Do you think that the laws in Exodus and Deuteronomy might make a useful study in how to live in community in the church? What do you think Paul’s answer to that question would be?