By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Ephesians 2.1-10
Struggling for Life
As my thoughts turned toward this week’s article, my mind became wrapped up in what appears to be Paul’s theological and philosophical discussion of death and life, beginning with Ephesians 2. But the more that I continue to read and examine Ephesians, the more it seems that this death and life discussion fills its pages. It is an interesting thought that probably takes more time than an article will permit, but perhaps some cursory thoughts on the Scripture at hand may prove beneficial.
Struggling for life has been the question of countless writings and films, with probably one of the most notable entries being the recent film The Matrix. While that film makes an interesting investigation into the perception of reality, this quest for knowing that one is alive becomes even more prevalent when we see how many times various programs have a character “pinch themselves” in order to find out if what they are experiencing is dream or actuality. The struggle to determine if one is truly alive is profound. Should it surprise us that the pursuit of seeking real life is a journey many begin, but some never complete? While the terms contained within my article might seem contrary to Scripture, I entreat the reader to consider Paul’s thoughts beginning with Ephesians 2, for I am certain that the search for knowing that one is truly living is part of the actualization process for our spiritual development.
From the writings of Paul in Ephesians 2.1-3, it seems that the first major realization in the struggle for life is to first understand what true death is. In this brief passage, Paul speaks of death as one who commits trespasses and engages in sin. Paul states that one who is alive but not truly living is one who is disobedient to God. This living death satisfies every passion of the flesh (cf. Galatians 5.19-21) and every desire of the mind (cf. Romans 1.28-2.1) and ultimately is headed for God’s wrath.
What strikes me as profound is that so many in our world seek life, but seek life through incorrect methods. For instance, how many have been persuaded to believe that vampirism is true? In essence, the journey is about life, yet it results in death. Firstly, the journey does not seem to acknowledge God as the one true God, but it advocates satisfying the passions of flesh and of the mind, something that Paul says is death. Those who are on this journey desire something – life, but the adversary has clouded the issue and muddied the water – so to speak. Generally speaking, all people want to truly live, but that life is truly given only through one source.
For one to become truly living, the soul has to have a profound change, the best example that I can think of is a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. The caterpillar is alive, but until the profound change from outside itself occurs, its true beauty and life cannot be seen. For the living soul, Paul says in Ephesians 2.4 that this change comes from God. Only through His mercy and His unmeasurable love is a soul able to go from living death to truly living. Comparing the living death to an unattractive and slimy caterpillar – who really wants to admire it, hold it, and possess it? Yet, to the contrary, how many admire, seek to hold and seek to posses the beautiful butterfly – which is analogous to true living?
Paul alludes to the transformation process in Ephesians 2.5-7, which he explains more fully in Romans 6.1-4, which helps explain John 3.3-10. But in Ephesians, Paul says one is made alive (quickened, if you will) by being raised up together with Christ. Jesus died, but was raised from the dead to truly live. In like manner one can truly live, but only after the transformation process of death and burial (baptism).
Just like the butterfly cannot brag about its beauty, neither can a transformed soul. The gift to the caterpillar is the beauty once the transformation has occurred. But the butterfly did not make the process, it simply had to endure the change in order to truly live. In like manner, the soul must endure the transformation process in order to truly live. Yet for some, the transformation (change) is very difficult, just like one childbirth may be more difficult than another, or one person’s physical death may be more difficult than another. Nonetheless, the transformation must take place in order to become fully alive.
As Paul states in Ephesians 2.10, the transformed soul is of God’s making, just like the transformed caterpillar is of God’s making. But this same verse contains the information we need in order to know that we are truly living – if we live a life of doing good, but like Ephesians 2.9 states – our good deeds in no way save us – to the contrary it is God’s transformation that changes us, Ephesians 2.8.
True spiritual life is something that Christians seek; yet at the same time there are some Christians who wonder if they are truly living. The Christian facing this challenge is struggling, searching for true life.
The Christian who is struggling with spiritual living, may find upon self-reflection that death is holding their life prisoner. The Christian facing this must first recognize true death is living outside of God (Ephesians 2.1-3), then second recognize that the transformation needs to have happened (2.4-7), and then understand the need for the butterfly to do good things (2.8-10). Paul does not leave his letter with a well-meaning platitudinal ending, no; for in chapters 4, 5 and 6 he discusses many ways to ensure that the transformed soul remains alive. May the Lord bless us with time in order to see some of those ways, and may the Lord bless you and may you find true life.