A Pastoral Letter For 21st Century Christians1
Background: Much of St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians leads me to believe that it is not merely an abstract epistle, but that it has all the marks of a homily for those who are about to be baptized, and anointed (chrismated or confirmed) with the Holy Spirit. For this seems to be the church's earliest practice, that candidates were baptized, and upon emerging from the font were anointed with oil, which is the earthly sign of the Holy Spirit. This anointing "sealed" (Ephesians 1:13) what occurred in baptism, and conferred true spiritual power, the power to live the life of the baptized. It is into this context that St. Paul now expounds the moral teachings of the Faith. Teachings that need to be renewed by Christians of every age.
In particular today I cite Ephesians 4:17-20 "So I tell you this and testify in the Lord that you must no longer conduct yourselves as the Gentiles do in the futility of their minds. Their understanding is darkened and they are alienated from God's life because of their ignorance, and due to the obstinancy of their hearts. They have become callous and have given themselves over to sensuality, and acts of sexual impurity which they greedily pursue. But you have not thus learned Christ!"
Here St. Paul reminds God's people that they must no longer conduct their lives like the unbelieving world (to which they once belonged), but rather in keeping with a new morality. One inaccessible to those who have not been enlightened by the Spirit.
Herein St. Paul teaches the church that the mind of the unbelieving world is darkened. That its members are unable to see what is good and beautiful, and that they have alienated themselves from God's life by their ignorance, and obstinate refusal to learn. This made them "callous," says St. Paul, which means that they lost all feeling for what is good, and thus "delivered themselves" into sensuality "which they greedily pursued." Strong language that.
It bespeaks an insatiable hunger to gratify sexual desires in every way possible, and much resembles current culture. A culture that has banished the Salt and Light of Christ so that instruction is no longer welcome, and contrary thought intolerable.
"But you have not so learned Christ!"
As St. Paul gave this warning to believers then, so pastors must today, for sinful nature has not changed. Nor has temptation diminished. And so we must keep our behavior pure by firmly rejecting sins both hetero- and homo-sexual.
The former includes adultery, living together apart from marriage, casual sex, rape, pedophilia, incest, orgies, pornography and the like. The latter includes "gender confusion" and all that is encompassed under the banner of LGBTQ. Which is not only a sin against God, but also against nature, reason, anatomy and finally against life itself in that it cannot generate new life, but is a dead end in every respect.
"But you have not so learned Christ!"
And so the call ever remains for God's people to cease their obstinancy, confess their sins, reject their wrongs, and flee to the altar of God Most High. For he is "faithful and just and will pardon our sins, and cleanse us from all injustice." (1 John 1:9) He will, moreover, lead us in the paths of life, and uphold us as we suffer the lingering effects of past sins. And his Holy Spirit will fortify us with the full armor of God so that we will be able to stand in the evil day. (Ephesians 6:13-18) May God grant it now and always. Amen.
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