Season After Pentecost (Proper 15) – The Epistle Passage: Showing good sense and judgment over the long haul
“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15 – 16)
As part of my job today I spent time with a client who needed to go to the ER. I know from having worked with other clients, and from personal experience, being alone and unattended in an ER exam room can be one of the most disheartening experiences. So I am determined that no one under my care should go through that experience alone. What does that have to do with these two verses you ask, beloved reader? My point is – the days are evil only when a person chooses evil ways. When you put the care and well-being in the forefront of your thinking and planning, there is no chance of evil happening.
According to the commentators I read, the meaning of “because the days are evil” means there is so much temptation and opportunity to do evil and pursue unworthy things. Paul has a very dim view of creation and humanity. So many of the people I know pursue such worthwhile things. And while not perfect, their days are spent pursuing good and the good of others. It is for this reason hold (or try to hold) an optimistic and positive view of creation and humanity.
And I have to wonder, were the people in the time of Paul really as thoughtless, evil, and cruel as he seems to anticipate they will be? Was there a difference between the way people lived and interacted with others, and the way we treat our fellow brother/sister in humanity? Or am I just that naïve about the world around me?
“So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Verses 17 – 20)
Okay, I have to admit the rest of this passage does sound pretty unrealistic – I am pretty sure the people around me are not bursting out in praise and song to the Lord every few minutes. Maybe there is, and should be, a middle ground. Doing good and seeking to do good, but not going around as a Christian choir in a gospel worship service. Even the best of gospel worship service choirs sings their final “Amen” and puts down their sheet music. Life goes on.
What Paul does not seem to give allowance for is living a Christian life in the long run, generation after generation. Could Paul see that some two thousand years plus we would still be waiting for the return of Jesus? And then I wonder, did Paul live a life as he described – did Paul “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs . . . . . singing and making melody to the Lord in [his] hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”?
We live in a real and ongoing world. If we veer too much to the side of personal indulgence and acting without care and compassion, then yes we live in evil days. But you can veer the other direction too much also, so focused on praise and worship that pragmatics of life and the daily reality of living are not given enough attention. If we are going to survive in the long haul, we need to have balance between living in this world and living for the sake of the world to come. And before you throw up your hands in despair thinking that balance is not possible, let me tell you, Jesus lived a balanced life. Yes, he was Divine. But he was also human, and appreciated the needs of a human life. He may have only lived on this earth until the human age of thirty-three, but the example he left us will carry us through the long haul. Selah!
Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific