When no one is watching

Today’s first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. If one step’s back for “the big picture” the letter deals, however, not so much with a congregation in the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor as with the worldwide church, the head of which is Christ (Eph 4:15), the purpose of which is to be the instrument for making God’s plan of salvation known throughout the universe (Eph 3:9-10). Yet this ecclesiology is anchored in God’s saving love, shown in Jesus Christ as head of the Church (Eph 2:4-10), and the whole of redemption is rooted in the plan and accomplishment of the triune God (Eph 1:3-14).

Yet in this letter the controversy is in the small details: “Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” (Eph 5:22) and “Slaves, be obedient to your human masters” (Eph 6:5). Both verses are cringe worthy to the modern ear and have been used/misused for human purposes. In their original context they were written as missionary behavior of the Christian household to the watching world. It is part of a larger message of the most intrinsic of Christian duties: mission to the world.

How are we to go about that mission today? The core of the message is contained in a verse that is often skipped because we have already passed over Ephesians 5 and 6 as anachronistic. But the instructions of then are still true today. It is a different setting, but the same admonishment:

In whatever context and in whatever society, to carry out all aspects of life, “in sincerity of heart, as to Christ, not only when being watched, as currying favor, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”

One may quickly think of the famous quotes:

  • “Integrity involves doing the right thing, even when no one is watching” — C.S Lewis
  • “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” Coach John Wooden, UCLA

But St. Paul’s point is that God is always watching you in love and wants for you the best – and while on mission in the world, the world is watching whether you know it or not. Let what they see be a witness to integrity of character and the love of God.

Image credit: Team Fearless, http://www.fearlessmotivation.com/

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