People’s views about what love is like, can vary like our British weather. You ask people what’s love like? And You’re likely to get all sorts – goodness, lust, compassion, passion, bitter-sweet, it’s unconditional, it’s conditional. Sure enough there are some commonalities across answers but the differences in opinions highlight how subjective such views are and this is likely indicative of people’s experience of loving relationships – some good, some bad, and some mixed. This after all is probably where most of us find our education on what love is like. However, if we were to ask the question what should love be like? We’ll most likely have more similarities in answers across the board as most can guess that love at it’s best is always good.
Walk in Love
In today’s scripture we read that Paul doesn’t just invite his readers to practice love he actually tells them to do so without any “Shoulds” or “Coulds”, he instructs instead “Walk in love” (v1). Here Paul’s tapping into the greatest commands to love God and to love others. It’s also part of our marred image of God, we each have a desire and longing to love and be loved. “To walk” requires decisive action, effort and vision of where you’re going.
What is a right view/vision of love? Paul doesn’t leave us to our devices in guessing what this walk of love should be like; he highlights this plainly with the resounding image “as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (v2). To a world that is confused and inconsistent in how love is thought about and shown, we have Paul point us to our greatest role model Jesus, in whom all things were made through (John 1:3), and who himself being love (1 John 4:8) died on the cross on behalf of our sins to grant us forgiveness “so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). This life lived through him will inevitably look like sacrificial love, that doesn’t depend on what we get from others but in loving for love’s sake.
Walk in Thanksgiving
Paul displays some things that many would hardly bat an eyelid over, nor consider as unloving (which is probably as true in our culture as that of the Ephesians) which believers should refrain from:
- “Sexual immorality” (v3)
- “Covetousness” (v3)
- “No filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking” (v4)
Paul states “but instead let there be thanksgiving” (v4) and he says similarly later on “..giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v20). As I once heard, it’s hard to be both happy and sad at the same time. You can’t really have one with the other at once. Perhaps the same can be thought of with thanksgiving – being truly thankful to God pushes out sinful vices that come under the guise of necessity or need. Instead we see God for who he is, the source of our fulfilment. That said, thanksgiving itself is not an antidote to the list of previous sinful behaviours, but rather the heart beneath thanksgiving, one of humility that values/depends on God and his interaction with us. To walk in love is clearly to walk in thanksgiving to God, from whom we receive every good (James 1:17).
Importantly, Paul directs us to how we can enter into and sustain such a posture of humility and thanksgiving through the exhortation, “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v18). This makes total sense as it is God the Holy Spirit who produces in us the fruit of love for God and others (Galatians 5:22-23). In such a time as ours where many are squeezed with increasing lockdown measures, and the continued effects of a Covid struck world, walking in the purity of love and thankfulness despite our circumstances will require Holy Spirit empowerment. Let’s choose to walk in Spirit empowered love and be thankful for all the Lord has done for us, continues to do and will do in our lives.