Honest for the Sake of the Body

Ephesians 4:25-27 “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”

Someone has said, “When you see the word ‘therefore’ in a sentence, you should ask what it is there for.” That is especially true in Scripture. “Therefore” indicates that we have a conclusion based upon what came before, as is the case here.

What came before was Paul’s reminder that God has made us new. He led us to faith in Jesus. He made Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to new life our own. He cleansed us of the sin that belongs to our old life. He forgave (and continues to forgive) our offenses. He put a new attitude in our minds. He recreated us inside to be like him: righteous and holy.

That is the basis on which Paul urges a new way of life. Here he starts with honesty: “Put off falsehood…speak truthfully.” In another letter he wrote to his friend Titus, “Cretans are always liars.” It seems that problems with honesty are an old, old problem.

What about us? Are Americans honest people? Seven years ago a bottled tea brand called Honest Tea did an experiment. They set out bottles of tea with no salesperson. Then they put up a sign asking people to leave a dollar if they took a bottle. According to their findings, 92 percent of us were honest enough to leave a dollar.

More carefully controlled studies of our conversations suggest that the average person tells a lie about twice each day. Maybe you have heard about the results of telephone surveys taken to measure America’s church attendance. When asked in surveys, about 45 percent of Americans claim that they attended church each week. When compared with the real attendance records of actual congregations, we find that half of those people were lying. If that many people were physically ill, we would call it an epidemic.

So we stretch the truth once in a while. What’s so serious about that? Consider the people affected by our fibs. “For we are all members of one body.” Lying to anyone is a sin, but lying to a fellow Christian is a little like injuring yourself. We are all different parts of the same body. Would you do something to your own body that would make it more difficult for that part of your body to remain a part of your body? Would you purposely infect one of your own vital organs and risk needing transplant surgery later? Would you cut off an otherwise healthy finger, or hand or arm, or seriously wound it so that you were in danger of losing it?

That’s the effect of lying on the relationships we have with other believers. Few things tear at the fabric that holds relationships together like dishonesty. Consider the damage it does to marriages, families, friendships. The list of those who have been torn apart by lying is sad and long. Why not just amputate a healthy arm or cut out your liver instead?

Our place in the body of believers became a reality only by the miracle of a divine transplant surgery. Ordinarily, our doctors place only a healthy organ into the body of someone who needs it. In the wonder of his grace, our Lord took us, sick and diseased as we were, cleansed and healed us of our sin, and then attached us to the body of Christ. He continues to pour out his grace and forgiveness on us to keep us there. He gives us the privilege of serving that body with whatever humble talents and abilities he has created in us.

Now he reminds us to consider the health of that body as we speak to one another. Let our conversation begin with honesty.

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