Lectio Divina Reflections (10)

My name is Neil Bye-Kuefler and I am married to Melanie. We are both teachers who were born and raised here in Edmonton. Recently we were blessed with our son, Cooper who is just now turning 9 months old. Melanie and I have been attending Calvary since May of 2015. We were searching for a church that was intimate, community-based, progressive and focused on Bible literacy. In addition to teaching, I am a passionate artist with most of my focus spent towards theatre. My personal passions in the theatre relate to poetic text and collective creation.

Here are some of my thoughts as I contemplate this week’s passage, Ephesians 4:25-32

In essence, this passage seems to be speaking about grace. It suggests that we should be honest but not hurtful, and that we should find closure in any challenges we face that are within our power to affect, even if it means finding a way to let go of a conflict that is unresolvable. By avoiding resentment and finding empathy we are better able to know Jesus.

I love old words that include the word “hood”; by asking the audience to “put off falsehood” I read the request as one to remove a layer of protectiveness. I compare it to a teaching from Japan that everyone has three faces: the Public face everyone sees, the private face they only show those closest to them, and the personal face that only they (and God) may know. Each additional face is also a layer that protects us. 

It seems to me that this passage is asking us to remove the Public (or politically correct?) face that we show everyone, to allow people to know us better and see that private face, one that we typically reserve for those closest to us. This face is full of opinion and disagreement and is sugar coated by the public face. For myself, I am a “people-pleaser” and want to help people to the point of satisfaction, but it would be more truthful of me to suggest to those that ask me for help that I, usually, have no time. Instead I sugar-coat and usual succumb to their requests.

The simplest, and perhaps more honest, example is this Lecto Divina, itself. I did not want to do it and I felt that my summer was precious. “Why spend an hour on an exercise for our church, which my interest in has been dwindling ever since Fellowship Praries has challenged the intimate and community-based nature of our church?” However, because I was asked by Matt Walker, someone I know and trust, I wanted to satisfy his request; I wanted to please his interests before mine, which was a falsehood. It would have been more truthful of me to admit my lack of time and ultimately my disinterest, which would perhaps disappoint Matt, but ultimately I know that Matt would have found someone else and I wouldn’t have felt burdened with this task (the burden at this point is now my own doing). 

That said, I am in this situation at my own fault, so I will make the best of this situation and before the “sun goes down” (which could be seen as a literal day, or the end of this exercise, or the Calvary Baptist chapter in my life) I should resolve my frustrations, without bitterness, put off my falsehood and speak honestly. When we are able to speak this way, though it may seem critical or vengeful to those who read it, the truth is that it is meant to make each other and our spaces better. I am being honest because this exercise and the passage in Ephesians request it; I bear no resentment to Matt or Calvary, and by vulnerably admitting my disinterest I am able to see my own error and grow from it. When we speak truthfully we reveal more of the truth and light to each other and ourselves. 

In all honesty, “the sun is setting” on my family’s relationship with Calvary Baptist and before it does I would like to remove the devil’s foothold on that story. I forgive Fellowship Prairies for the impact that they have had on our church, and for the impact that it will have on the unity of our body. While we as a church body may not agree totally as individuals, I know that our desires as a church are the same, and perhaps through honesty and compassion you all will discover some of that “radical unity” that Dan Sadowski spoke of a while back. Through my honest admission and forgiveness I understand that while I bear no resentment I no longer have an interest in continuing at Calvary. We will not remain and by doing so I leave happily with prayers that my honesty may spark more compassion in a community that I have grown to care about deeply.

My prayer is one of gratitude. I am so grateful to have an example of compassion and grace in Jesus; a God that forgives us and demonstrates compassion to the world. I want to remove falsehood from my life and be more direct with everyone in my life, that I might also do it knowing that it is an act to build up my community and not to tear down. So often my desire to please others is directly linked to my fear that I may hurt others through words. But words are not inherently hurtful when used honestly. Through the Jesus I have grown to be more acutely aware of how words are a like a blade. A blade can be made into a tool or a weapon and that same decision is the difference between spiteful words and honest words. Spite is hurled like javelins with the intent to hurt and honesty is more like a blade refined, flattened, and simplified into a scalpel. The scalpel is used with the precise intent to reveal the truth inside and potentially to cut away bad or infected pieces of us. While both of these blades “hurt” us, the spear of spite aims to kill while the scalpel of truth intends to ultimately heal.

I pray to Jesus that Calvary hands might shape any spite they harbour into the useful tool of honesty. I pray that members of Calvary recognize that when we are audience to truth, as I have been in Ephesians, the audience then has a choice to accept the truth and refine it into a useful tool or to wield it in spite. I pray that my honesty pleases God and  I pray that we all reject the decision to weaponize truth and do the hard work to refine truth into honest words that remove our defences and heal us.

Jesus has shown me the simplicity of truth. I understand that by eliminating my own self-righteousness, simplifying my life, refine my understanding of truth, and humbling myself to be honest with others, that I can begin to show true compassion to others and find peace in my heart.

Did you try out Lectio Divina this week with Ephesians 4:25-32? Share your reflections here! If you still would like to follow with our community and contemplate weekly passages of scripture with us, check out the guide to Lectio Divina and this week’s podcast or subscribe to weekly podcast releases on Apple music.

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