As our American neighbours’ political campaigns are now at fever pitch, there is great danger of evil being committed in the name of righteousness. One thinks of certain attack ads, of certain deceitful claims made in debates, and other dirty tricks. How can there not be more to come?
However strong one’s opinions may be about local, state, or federal candidates and issues, the Apostle Paul offers us a glass of cool water, at once bracing and soothing. The election campaign will be over soon, and relationships and reputations damaged during it will not then be miraculously un-damaged when the next stage begins—that stage of actual government, of cooperation, of listening well to each other and brokering the best possible compromises.
Election Day is not the Last Judgment, not The End of the World as We Know It, and Paul’s wisdom reminds us to take the long view, to behave in ways that are both good and prudent.
As usual, that is, the Bible’s commands are “righteous altogether,” sound in principle and in practice, at once both holy and wise. Here, then, a lesson for the campaign endgame, and for the day after:
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
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 practice 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.
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:14-32; NRSV)
These are good words for this day, as they are for every day.
And I hope one of my American friends will remind this Canadian of them during our next political contest.