Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ten Ways to Cultivate Christlikeness at Home

FOLLOW-UP ON FAMILY LIFE. In an earlier post, I wrote of the particular challenge of being who we are--persons of faith who are following Jesus Christ--at home. In follow-up, I developed the following pithy list and called it "10 Ways to Cultivate Christlikeness at Home," drawing from Ephesians 4:17-5:21. Try these on for size:

1. CONFIRM WHAT YOU'VE PUT OFF/PUT ON. Recall the reality of your new life in Christ: You've "put off the old self; put on the new self--created to be like God." Bring this reality into your home life. According to Ephesians 4:17-24, this is the first and continuing top priority if authentic Christianity at home--or anywhere else--is going to be expressed.

2. FREE TO BE TRUTHFUL. Speak truthfully--put off falsehood. Read Ephesians 4:25. Because we no longer need to deal in cover up, truth-shading, or weighing words and actions between various "lords" and often competing masters, we are free to tell the truth to our loved ones. Truth here translates into truth in the public arena.

3. DEAL DECISIVELY WITH YOUR ANGER. Ephesians 4:46-27 is pretty clear: Anger IS an issue. Anger is an ISSUE. Anger is an issue for EVERYONE. The possibility that grace brings to us is not to deny that Christians become angry (as I was taught early on), but to not let the sun go down on our anger...and so not to allow it to go to seed and spring up as seething resentment and long-term hatred that shapes our world view, poisons our relationships and destroys our souls. If we find ourselves doing mental gymnastics to avoid acknowledging that we're angry when we are, anger isn't our most immediate or biggest problem.

4. WORK AS A WAY OF SHARING. Ephesians 4:28 warns against idleness and inert mooching, but not in a demeaning "get a job!" tone. Why work? "So that you may have something to share with those in need." John Wesley's dictum was: Work all you can; save all you can; so you may give all you can. Think of this in terms of time, too. Sharing in household chores and cooperative goals translates into time for service in the community or those in need.

5. CULTIVATE CARING COMMUNICATION. How we talk to one another matters a great deal. Words, tone, attitude, outlook, body language--these all convey value. Read Ephesians 4:29-31, 5:4, 19-20. While demeaning communication may be par for the course at school, work, or in the public arena, we are called upon to let our words be shaped by our new identity. The shape of our conversation and the words we use may well be one of the leading points of light in our witness these days.

6. FORGIVE, FORGIVE, AND FORGIVE AGAIN. Ephesians 4:32 calls us to compassion and forgiveness as a pattern in our basic relationships. Remember: each of us have been forgiven much; we can forgive, too! Consciously, pointedly, authentically choosing to forgive relatively small grievances and offenses in the household and family relationships establishes a pattern that makes forgiveness more possible and realistic in the larger community.

7. GUARD YOUR SEXUAL BEHAVIOR. Read Ephesians 5:3. In Christ, sexuality is not shunned, it is redeemed. In Christ, we are invited to put off self-destructive behaviors and relationships in preference for a wholesomeness and faithfulness that has authentic love as its creative context. Moreover, we are empowered to guard our sexual behavior so that it does not interfere with relationship or witness.

8. GUARD AGAINST GREED AND THE MAMMON SPIRIT. Some folks who would never engage in illicit sexual behavior, continuously lust after money and have so defined their value in possessions and securities that their admonitions to their family members about honesty and sexual purity fall on deaf ears. This, along with racism, is at the core of American Christianity's integrity issues. Read Ephesians 5:5-17.

9. WATCH WHAT YOU TURN TO FOR SATISFACTION. Don’t go in for cheap, destructive highs; let God keep on filling your heart. Read Ephesians 5:18. How much energy is spent indulging in addictive agents and chasing after disappointing illusions? I am convinced that we are given and have access to natural highs, satisfaction and joy in life that do not depend on alcohol-assisted or drug-induced states of consciousness.

10. LEARN TO YIELD. Yielding right of way and merging caringly has become a major spiritual and relational issue in America. If our behavior in traffic is any indication, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ is a real challenge. Read Ephesians 5:21. If I focus and insist only on my rights, I may disregard and devalue you and others. But if we focus on each other's good (and the common good!), we will yield to each other. There is synergy!

I welcome your comments and/or questions in the spirit of dialog. Share yours by clicking on "comments" just below. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!

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