Christopher B. Harbin
People don't like handouts. We feel like they diminish our worth. We associate them with shame, with powerlessness, with a sense of inferiority, with some kind of personal or moral failure. Oh, that does not keep us from wanting something that is free. It does not keep us from accepting gifts. Somehow we make a distinction between what is free, what is a benefit, what we have earned, what we deserve, and what we receive that devalues or dehumanizes us.
We like to say that beggars can't be choosers, that you can't look a gift horse in the mouth, but we are just as aware that not all charity is charitable, that some forms of assistance are demeaning, and that too often a gift has more to do with the dignity of the giver than recognizing the dignity of the recipient. Then we take those attitudes against charity and seek to apply them to a relationship with God. We struggle against God's offer of grace and mercy. We want desperately to earn our salvation and not be beholden to questions of grace. Are we afraid that God's charity is too much like our own?
Paul had just finished writing of God's marvelous plan from before creation, thanking God for the believers in Ephesus, reminding them of the hope that was at work within their lives, and calling them to a better understanding of what that hope was all about. Now he goes on to explain the essence of the message of the hope they had claimed. He calls them to consider what that hope really meant, what it means, and how it applies to our lives today.
This was a message he had to continue repeating to those churches in which he had begun his ministry. It was necessary because of the Judaizers who were continually coming in behind him to trap the believing community within the legalistic framework of the old Judaism. They forced him out of town after town, then worked to convince the believers he had left behind to abandon a gospel of grace for the legalis ...
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