Lori and I have a breakfast ritual. She lets the dogs out and feeds them, I make the breakfast, we sit down and, while we eat, we like to read the news online from a few reputable media sources.
Well, I say “like” but sometimes we don’t “like” it at all. But it’s good to be informed even if you wish it were more positive. And truthful. When did it get so easy to lie? And steal and hate and hurt and break and? Sorry. I’m starting to sound like one of those ministers who thinks “the world is going to hell in a hand basket.”
Don’t be afraid. I don’t mean to sound like that - I’m still one of those ministers who thinks that, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we are inherently good. With freewill, we are often easily led astray, but God - the power of love, grace and good that connects us all - is our default setting.
I’ll come back to that, but I was thinking about what’s true when I noticed the headline “In business, finding out what’s true is more valuable than ever.” It was an analysis column by CBC business writer Don Pittis. He started out talking about Elon Musk’s recent tweet announcing his intent to buy back shares of his company, Tesla. Was the information in the tweet true, everyone wants to know. Because if it isn’t, Pittis writes, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could charge him with stock manipulation or fraud. Pittis writes “the children's game of true or false doesn't seem as easy as it used to. For those of us grasping for truth in a world that seems full of convenient lies, knowing there is a body like the SEC to step in and try to keep powerful business leaders honest is at least a small comfort. But in so many other areas, truth seems to have lost its currency. And unlike with the securities business, there is no regulator to intervene and tell us what's so.”
He’s written about this before, he says, and goes on to talk about the lack of truth and credibility in politics, the world and the media before tying them all together with this: “In business, truth matters. Outside of business, the value of truth is harder to measure. But guiding our lives by pure falsehood surely has a cost. And there's no SEC to set us straight.”
He should read Ephesians with us this week.
Traditionally, it was long thought that the letter to the Ephesians was written by the apostle Paul to people at Ephesus (a Mediterranean coastal city in what’s now modern day Turkey) and lumped in with Paul’s other letters. But more recent scholarship says that Paul didn’t write it, it was likely a student or follower later, using Paul’s name to give it credibility. And it may not have been specifically to Ephesus. The oldest existing copy seems to be blank in the salutation, so it could have been to anyone or everyone. Which is also interesting. Paul’s letters seem to be in response to a particular situation or context that we don’t have the original correspondence for, but this one is more direct and broader in scope.
Let me go back to “using Paul’s name to give it credibility.” The whole preceding paragraph shouldn’t be interpreted as questioning how credible the letter is. Truth is (no pun intended) we shouldn’t consider only it’s source, something we so often do, but investigate and discern the content for ourselves. Really. Don’t just believe it because I said so, read it for yourself. Especially Ephesians 4:25-5:2.
The whole letter is really about the community created around the gospel story, the “good news” of Jesus, but is more than the words or theology of that, it’s the practical doing of it. The community we create and empower by being honest and truthful with each other, but not in a way that’s hurtful and destructive. Even anger is okay, but, again, the point ought to always be to build up, not tear down. And thieves shouldn’t steal, but rather work to have something to share with others. The point always being to build up the community - literally, the common unity - of people. Put away malice and bitterness, says the letter, and be kind and supportive with each other.
Well that sounds idyllic. And difficult. And if you read the news today, it doesn’t look like we’re being very successful at it. There’s very little warm fuzzies and lots of harsh reality. Yes. But we shouldn’t give up and we shouldn’t address that with simply more of the same.
The author of Ephesians has another idea. Remember “created in the image of God?” Well, then “be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us” (Eph. 5:1-2). I think they could see how easy it was for us to look out at the world and respond in kind and they wanted to tell us all to look inwards instead, and to see God there and to live in love. Because however you know God, God is love. Jesus is that love incarnate. We are, too.