TRANSLATION OF THE LETTER TO EPHESIANS WITH COMMENT
So, let everyone put away deceit and speak truth with their neighbour, for we are limbs of one another. Be angry if you must but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your rage, and grant no space in your soul to the devil. The thief must no longer steal but instead set to work, doing an honest job with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with people in need. No putrid talk should come out of your mouth but only what is good for building people up as they need, so that it can give a kindness to its hearers. And do not offend the Holy Spirit of God whose seal has marked you for the day of liberation. Throw out all bitterness and bad temper, all rage, shouting and slander from yourselves – and all malice; but be good to one another, treating each other graciously as God in Messiah has graced you.
I am always startled by the quality of the ethical teaching of the New Testament; it expects so much of the assemblies of Jesus, whose generous self- giving is always the basis of individual commands. This author is especially concerned with truth as opposite of deception. Believers must live and speak out of reality and not out of pretence. They are limbs of the one body, so they cannot hide from one another. Of course, dealing with one’s real neighbour can be exasperating and may lead to anger. The author reckons they have to be robust enough to cope with anger but it should not outlast the day, for to hold on to rage is to give scope to the devil.
The thief is selected as an instance of how they should deal with serious offenders. The community should neither condone nor condemn such criminals but restore them to honest labour so that they can regain honour by helping people in need. This also is a robust provision, that looks to build up rather to bring down a person who has gone wrong.
The author knows that the quality of ordinary speech will have a huge influence on the quality of common life. The Holy Spirit, as the bond of shared life and the promise of ultimate liberation, can be offended by any language that denies present community or future holiness. God’s self is involved and at risk in the communal life of the assembly.
All the sad forms of abusive language should be expelled from the lives of believers. They may be tempting, they may even happen at times, but they should be firmly shown the door, so that the common life may be a mirror of God’s own generosity.
To live in such a community is a delight.