We like to tell ourselves we don’t like rules but really, most of us do. We like rules because they make for a predictable world and who doesn’t want that? I don’t know anyone who is looking for anarchy on the roads for example. No one wants traffic lights to mean whatever anyone wants them to mean. Red meaning stop is a comforting thing to every driver. The possibility that red might mean go to some people is deeply unsettling; we want rules of the road.
We also want rules of how we are to comport ourselves. We want to know which fork to use at a fancy dinner, what kind of clothes to wear to work or an event, what kind of language to use with each of the people we talk to. Is it any surprise we want rules about how to be followers of Jesus? Of course it isn’t a surprise. It is normal.
When we first encounter Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we see, beginning in chapter 4 verse 25, what looks like a list of things to do and things to not do, i.e. rules. The Bible has lots of such lists, see the book of Leviticus for example, but this list is different. It is different primarily in how it gives us a reason for these do’s and don’ts, a bit of a motivation to do or do not, if you will. We come to this letter of Paul’s and if we want a list of rules we are going to leave empty-handed. If we come to the letter looking for how and why we should live as women and men in a relationship with God through Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit . . . . well, that we get.