Paul, in the fourth chapter to the Ephesians, deals with two major issues: first the Church and how He distributes grace through the church, then he deals with the fact that we must give up sin and the ways of the world.
Paul starts off reminding us of all the graces Jesus has given us all. God has a right to choose how He gives His gifts as He pleases (4:7). Before Christ “ascended” and took His seat of authority, He “descended,” suffered and died for us so that those graces would be won for us (9-10). We are the “Body of Christ.” So these ministers are called to serve the ones God loves so dearly. So Jesus did in fact come to begin a Church: His Church. This Church would operate on His grace, not mere human effort. In God’s grace, He gave us His Church and called all its ministers to be a means of His grace to His people (11-12). Verse thirteen reaffirms that we are part of the body of Christ when we form that “perfect man who is Christ come to full stature.” We are no longer our own bodies. Jesus bought us back from the one who did own us. Or have we given ourselves back to the evil one? As Baptized people, Jesus has grafted us onto Him. This grace came at a very dear price. Moreover, we are called to form that ‘perfect’ man.
This leads to the second issue. We “must no longer live as the pagans do” (17). How many Catholics run to the way of this pagan world. The world says obey your passions, whereas the Church says to control your passions. The world says letting your past go is the way to freedom, whereas the Church says that letting your passions go is the sure way to slavery. We become enslaved to our own passions in addictions, bouts of rages where we regret things we’ve done. Letting passions go also make us susceptible to being controlled and manipulated. How easy it is to ruin relationships by saying bad things about another, true or not. How easy it can be to manipulate a person into buying this or that when they really cannot afford it or was simply a bad buy. Emotions trick us into lust before we have a chance to build true love in marriage. When lust enters into a relationship, it is all the more difficult to re-learn how to love. Lust teaches selfishness in the relationship, whereas true love inspires sacrifice. Lust has no place in the life of a Catholic.
The world teaches us that it is ok to lie. But such dishonesty ruins relationships and the fruitfulness it can have in our lives. If you understood that your best friend could lie to you and you could lie to your friend, how would that affect your relationship with them? How would that affect our marriages, families, or how we perceive public servants in office?
The world teaches us that holding on to anger is strength. The Church sees it as a wound that hinders our abilities to have healthy relationships. Holding onto anger weakens us. Unforgiveness teaches us to hold malice in our hearts toward others. It does not stay in us; it will always manifest itself in those around us. It comes out in bitterness, harsh words, slander, gossip and criticism. It can manifest itself in body language and tone of voice. It tears down and cannot build up.
Whereas kindness, compassion and forgiveness bring life and hope. It brings hope to the one forgiven, but it also gives hope to the forgiving. A relationship is restored and ties to the injury done are severed. Fear of the suffering dealt no longer has to be present. It frees the soul. When a person is truly forgiven, neither do they have to fear being manipulated from shame of the past sin.
If we are to be a part of the body of Christ, sin, worldliness and the flesh are to be put aside. There is no straddling the fence; there is no cafeteria Catholicism.