So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
I have the honor of having a large number of followers in the UK, so British readers, how would it strike you if I sent you an email that said, “You must no longer live as the British do…”?
I also have quite a few readers in Australia, so Australians, how would you respond if I wrote you, “You must no longer live as the Aussies do…”?
My guess is that in both cases, you would not really appreciate that coming from a loud mouthed Yank!
Along those same lines, I am really curious to discover how the Ephesians received this passage from Paul, the Jew writing to Gentiles telling them they must not live “as the Gentiles do” when in fact they are Gentiles, and Paul is not.
Yet as I read through the passage, I can see that the word “Gentile” can be replaced with “American” “Brit” “Aussie” “Canadian” or any other nationality with the same result and meaning… and be every bit as fresh and meaningful as it was when Paul first wrote it.
As followers of Christ, we must no longer live just like everyone else does, for their thinking is futile and their priorities are on the wrong things. It makes sense when you think about it, for we have received the truth of Jesus Christ and the others have not, so how could they know God’s priorities and God’s ways? To a non-Christian, looking out for number one seems logical and practical, and if this world is all a person knows, what would you expect from them? Yes, I agree that it seems a tad harsh when Paul says that their hearts have been hardened and they’ve lost all sensitivity, but consider this: He seems to be referring to people who have refused to respond to the good news about Christ, and if that is the case then harsh or not, it is the truth… as opposed to the ones who just haven’t heard about Jesus yet.
The really important part of this text comes in the second paragraph, beginning at verse 20, because here Paul reminds all of us that we have been taught a different way of life. We have been taught to put off our former ways, to be new in the attitude of our minds, and to put on the new life in Christ and to follow His ways. Notice that Paul isn’t likening the “new” to the future, but rather to the present; by implication he seems to be asking what we’re waiting for.
Let’s be entirely honest: For many of us, maybe even for most of us, there is little difference between the way we live our lives and the way everyone else lives their lives.
So, what are we waiting for?