Ephesians 4:17-25 Taking a Closer Look at Sloth May 21, 2017

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1 Ephesians 4:17-25 Taking a Closer Look at Sloth May 21, 2017 The following video was played before the sermon: We are in week four of our sermon series, Taking a New Look at the 7 Deadly Sins. We ve already covered Pride, Envy and Anger, and now we are taking a new look at sloth. So, I imagine many of you are asking, Ok sloth, so why does the opening video seem to focus on apathy? Because when I looked at the seven deadly sins when it came to the one on being a sloth, the first thing I thought of, was the movie Zootopia. Those of you who have not seen the movie, there is a scene in which the DMV is run completely by sloths. Of course, the humor behind this is that DMV s are notorious for their long wait times. This movie s implied explanation is that it is run by sloths a very slow moving tree dwelling mammal that primarily resides in Central and south America. Ironically, it is because of this image that we as Americans have a hard time taking a Sabbath, a time of rest, for fear that we will be seen as slothful or lazy. So, we end up choosing to use our time in a manner that we can honestly say we are busy, however, it may be in activities that are not necessary what God has in mind for us. The reality is the term sloth, at least as the term is used as one of the seven deadly sins, is not a reference to being slow or lazy, in fact you can be quite quick and busy and still be committing the deadly sin of being slothful. A more accurate term for the meaning of this deadly sin is acedia, a Latin word which means spiritual or mental sloth, without care. In other words, apathy. It is when we don t care about those around us or we don t care what God would have us do. I focus more on what I want to do, more on what I think should be done. While you may be able to boast that you haven t killed anybody (yet), you haven t stolen anything, you have always respected your parents, and been true to your spouse, in other words you have not engaged in the sins of co-mission. However, we likely would not be as equally boastful that we are innocent of the sins of omission. The book of James puts it well, when he writes, Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money. Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin. (4:13-17) A sin of omission is a sin that is the result of not doing something God calls us to do, whether it is communicated through God s word, spiritually conveyed through prayer or a series of coincidences, I prefer to call God-incidences. A great biblical example of this is when Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. Y all, know that story. A man traveling the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, was beaten by some thieves and left for dead. Two men; men who were scripturally mandated to stop to help him, a priest and a Levite, passed him by. Jesus doesn t tell us why, but scholar after scholar has given their ideas. Perhaps the most popular explanation is that they feared the man was a trap, that by going to him, the thieves would come out of hiding and beat them within an ounce of their life. Others suggest, it was because he was all bloodied up or maybe they thought he was dead, in either case if they were heading to the temple, touching the man would have rendered them unclean.

2 As I was reflecting on this particular deadly sin, I got to wondering, could the fact that apathy is contagious play a part? Could it be the neglect to receive any help from the first two can be explained by the bystander effect? The Bystander effect, explains that it is in our human nature, when we see someone in need, we are less likely to help the more people in the vicinity. The reason for this phenomenon is that we struggle with two competing social rules. One is to take action, the other is to do what everyone else is doing. So, when we see that no one else is doing anything we are more likely to do nothing as well. That sounds like a great explanation, however, as Christians falling back on that is not an option, because we are called to higher purposes than doing what everyone else is doing. Today s scripture is a reminder of that. In it Paul appeals to his converts to leave their old way of life, and turn to Christ s way of life. As he says, starting in verse 17, you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. Of course, he goes on to explain that, They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. (vs 18-19) The phrase hardness of heart is translated from the Greek word, porosis, related to the word poros which meant a stone harder than marble, which had certain medical uses. It was the chalk stone which can form in the joints that completely paralyze action. So, it has come to mean loss of all power of sensation. This is why Paul goes on to write, They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (vs 19) In other words, they have sought their own ways, they have become slothful; they have the disease of apathy. So, we must remember, our heavenly Father s love has destroyed our apathy, and so we look to Christ as our teacher, not other people. Paul goes on to say, For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (vs 21-24) So how do we live our life a new, when not only our society, but our very human nature is pulling us to live slothful lives? Here is the good news. What I ve told you about bystander effect is not the whole story. Ken Brown, the associate dean for the University of Iowa undergraduate program, gave a Ted Talk the summer of 2015 called the Bystander Effect is Complicated. Originally the conclusions formed by the studies on the bystander affect, suggested that the reason for failing to help came from, what social psychologists call, the diffusion of responsibility. In other words, we pass the buck to someone else. Ken Brown challenged that presumption, theorizing that the reason people were not helping wasn t because of the diffusion of responsibility, so much as from a sense of feeling uncertain. The uncertainty of not knowing what to do. So although you feel the responsibility to do something, you become paralyzed with uncertainty and do nothing. He came to this conclusion because, he noted something he found in the research that was aimed at this by stander affect. He reviewed the many experiments social scientists use to see people s reaction when people are in need. If you have ever seen them they are quite sad. Some of the people that are part of the interview will even cry out for help but people walk on by. However, every now and then there is a time when someone actually stops to help the person in distress. And when that happens something interesting happens, others join in helping. One video I saw you could see a woman who realized there was someone in need but she had a look of confusion, or as Ken Brown put it, a look of uncertainty. But then someone else comes to help, and the woman

3 ends up joining the good Samaritan. So just as when we see no one offering help thus we re likely to do nothing, when we see someone else help, we are more likely to lend a hand. Brown calls this the helper effect. But here is the thing, someone has to start the helper effect pattern before others will join in. Someone has to overcome their fears, overcome their uncertainty and do something. As Christians, if we are uncertain, it means that we are becoming lax in our trust of God, we are becoming spiritually apathetic, slothful. So, the remedy is to get passionate about following Christ again. We do this by practicing the three R s: remember, repent, and renew. We must re-member ourselves to Christ, because in some sense we have become dismembered. We re-member ourselves by looking back to a time when we could feel the warmth and closeness of Christ s presence. In doing that we must understand that it is we who have drifted away not God. So, we look to scripture such as the prodigal son and realize, just as the prodigal son s father welcomed him back with open arms, so too our heavenly father welcomes us back with open arms. Which leads us to the next R, repent. We need to realize that we have, at the very least committed the sin of omission. However, in truth, is in the process of our living out the sins of omission, we may very well rationalize ourselves into adding some of the sins of commission. Whatever it is, we confess where we have missed the mark, asking not only for forgiveness but also for God to help you take steps to help us live out the third R renew that is we renew your commitment. We renew our commitment by following the ordinances, some of us call them means of grace, others may see them as spiritual disciplines whatever it is we get back to the basics that brought on our faith in the first place. In coming here today you are already practicing one of these disciplines, corporate worship, you are learning what it means to worship and praise God in a community. We read scripture not only as a community of faith we read scripture in our home. You say well pastor I ve already read the Bible. Then read it again. You know as I have been packing up my things for our big move, I have come across some love notes Howard and I have exchanged do you think I shoved them aside and said, eh, I already read them when he gave them to me. I don t need to read them again? No of course not, I read them again. And I don t know if you ve ever done that, come across a note from someone special and what happens? You get a little glow in your heart don t you. When we come together we not only read the bible we pray. As a corporate body we pray. But you know we don t have to wait until Sunday to pray. We can pray in the privacy of our homes in the car and we can pray before our meal at the restaurant. But I need to add the prayer should not be limited to your talking. You need to take a moment to listen. Our relationships grow when we not only contribute to the conversations our own take on what is going on, but also take time to listen to what God has to say. And of course, the acts of mercy and justice, which we do, not for our own benefit but the benefit of Christ who taught us anything we do for or to another we do unto him. When we take a stand for the oppressed we are taking a stand for Jesus. Conversely when we ignore or worse belittle the oppressed, we are ignoring or belittling Jesus. Through all of these activities we become better acquainted with God. The more we become acquainted with God, the more we learn of his promises and the more certain we can be that he will fulfill them. The more certain we feel about God, the more we will lives of faith rather than fear.

4 At the end of the Ted Talk, Ken Brown told of his own story of overcoming uncertainty. He said he was at an airport terminal, seated next to a guy who had fallen asleep hard. The man appeared very different from him, he was unshaven wearing ratty old jeans, contrast that with Ken in his business suit. After some time, they started calling the various groups to board the plane. But this guy was still sleeping, he was out cold. Ken kept hoping the man would wake up. Ken said he felt a sense of obligation to wake the man but he also had this uncertainty. What if it s not even this guy s flight? What if the guy gets mad at him? What will happen them. So, he started to walk away but then he stopped himself. Realizing he needed to face his uncertainty, as nervous as he was, he reached out and touched the gentleman on his shoulder saying, Sir? Excuse me Sir, the plane is about to leave. Ken said he was still uncertain as he watched this stranger slowly open his eyes. He looked at Ken and said, Thank you sooo much. Then he went on to explain he had been on a spiritual retreat and was up all night praying, and so he just could not stay awake. They both boarded the flight together, shoulder to shoulder. Ken reflected how this was another one of those little things, but he was afraid he was uncertain. So, he asked himself the question that I now extend to you, How many other times do we feel uncertain or afraid, of things that are more important, more worrisome, or more troubling than tapping someone on the shoulder? How many times do we neglect to do a simple little thing, yet the rewards far out weigh the investment? Margaret Mead is quoted as saying, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. The remaining eleven disciples proved that nearly 2000 years ago; it was true for them it is true for us. We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This world has enough slothful apathy, it needs some people committed to Christ to live life anew. So, now that you know that other people will follow if you get a group of people who are committed, excited and willing to work hard; where are you going to lead others to change the world by your example of Christ like service. What are you going to do to make a difference? Let us pray. Bibliography Brown, K. (2015, July 12). The Bystander Effect is Complicated--Here's Why. Retrieved from You Tube: A new look at SLOTH

5 The word "sloth" is a translation of the Latin term acedia, meaning "without care". Spiritually, acedia first referred to an affliction attending religious persons, especially monks, wherein they became indifferent to their duties and obligations to God. The sin of omission. Think of sloth as spiritual apathy Sin of omission. By standard effect Live your life anew You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27 Spiritual apathy, coldness, or indifference can affect even the most sincere Christian at one time or another. Human emotions being as fickle as they are, feelings of apathy or disinterest can sometimes replace the fervor we once felt for the things of God. Overcoming such apathy is necessary for continuing our walk with God. How to overcome spiritual apathy Remember Repent clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:24 Renew NEXT STEPS I will memorize Ephesians 4:24 I will read Luke 10:25-37 I will take steps to keep my passion for Christ alive. I will attend the entire sermon series on the Seven Deadly Sins.

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