He’s not oversimplifying things. And he’s not denying the complexities of real life decisions. But Paul is revealing the root of it all: There is light. And there is darkness.
Ultimately, we must recognize that it comes down to this.
If I’m keeping something secret, why is that?
If I’m hesitant to reveal a habit, what’s behind that?
If I don’t tell the whole story, what’s really going on there?
If I turn from helping a neighbor, why?
Is it goodness? Right relationships? Truth? Or is it something else…something dark?
“Two Ways there are, the way of Life and the way of Death. And there is a great difference between the Two Ways.” – The Didache
“Therefore, do not be foolish, but recognize what the Lord’s will is.” – Paul
Do I say it like it is? Or do I just try to help?
Option A: “He’s using you. He doesn’t love you. Move out.” (truth)
Option B: “I know it’s hard. We love you. You can call us anytime.” (compassion)
Option A: “You’re addicted. You’ve lost control.” (truth)
Option B: “Here’s some money. Take care, OK?” (compassion)
Somehow, we’ve come to see it as an either/or issue. Tell the truth OR be compassionate. But the Apostle Paul’s challenge (Ephesians 4) is to grow up and recognize that it’s actually both/and.
Real compassion is always truthful AND loving.
Truth with no love is rarely heard.
Love with no truth rarely helps.
Jesus: total truth AND real love. Together.
Some of the most pivotal moments in my life came when someone spoke the truth to me with love. Those who changed my life demonstrated a lifestyle of truth-filled compassion.
How is compassion linked to salvation?
In other words, what has Christ done? For what purpose?
What can I do? For what purpose?
What did Jesus’ work accomplish? Vs. What does my work accomplish?
In his letter to the Ephesians (chapter 2), Paul articulates a distinctly Christian understanding of the relationship between works and salvation.
He says this:
Our works don’t bring us to God, or even close to God. Salvation is a gift. It is given. Completely. It can only be received. It is not earned.
One translation puts vs. 8 like this: “You had nothing to do with it.”
But then Paul immediately moves to the purpose of salvation: “to do good works.”
So we might summarize Paul’s argument like this: We are saved, not by works (v.9), but for works (v.10).
I’d draw it like this:
Christ’s work affects me. My work doesn’t affect Him, but it does affect others. Christ’s gospel is communicated or extended to others through me.
And, in reality, the gospel was communicated to me through others, like this:
The question isn’t “should you do good works?”
Of course you should.
The question is “who are the good works for?”
Answer: For others. For your neighbor.