In our text today (Eph 4:25-32) we are told to put away several natural, man-like traits (i.e.-falsehood, unrighteous anger, theft, corrupt talk, bitterness, wrath, clamor, slander, and malice) and put on several supernatural, God-like traits (i.e.-truth, righteous anger, honest work to have something to share, talk that builds up, kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness). This is a call to radical heart change. Can this kind of change happen outside the church?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, assassinated by the Nazis during World War II, didn’t think so. Upon his study of Scripture, he said in his book, Life Together:
“The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.”
If we are to put away all of these old-self practices, we cannot see them as merely sickness or weakness. They are nothing short of sin. Further, what better place to confront them, than within the body of Christ? If we are to grow up in every way, into Christ, we need each part of the body (the church) to work properly, so that we grow and build one another up in love.