To write well, I avoid the passive voice. Or to put it the wrong way, my writing is becoming less passive. Yet, when Paul greets the church at Ephesus with the rich and sonorous, ‘blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…’ everything he says for the rest of the page is passive. It has to be this way. God already is fully blessed by His nature and totally the gift-giver in our relationship with Him. We are like young children on Christmas Day, requiring fourteen minutes to tell of all the things that we received, but since we are not yet active in the real world, can’t point to a single thing that we have given back. So, Paul goes fourteen verses listing the gifts we have from our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Imagine a child in a car seat with a little plastic steering wheel. That’s us. We have entered the New Year with someone else driving the issues that will really matter for us in the year ahead. Our health, our family unity, our safety, our daily bread and our weekly rest; all God. Paul is one of those rare voices in our lives that points to the steering wheel in our hands and says, ‘it’s plastic and not connected to the control arms of our vehicle, but that’s okay.’
In Ephesians 1:11, Paul passively uses the most politically incorrect word in the Bible; “…having been predestined according to [God’s] plan.” I don’t think he does this in hopes of creating theological divisions in the church. The racism, colonialism, and classism propagated for the last 20 centuries by Christians who take pride in their birthright, is not Paul’s fault. Quite the opposite, all Christian service is laid on a foundation of utter humility. We are like recovering alcoholics who say:
1. We now admit that we are powerless over life — that without grace, our days quickly become unmanageable.
2. We believe in a Power greater than ourselves who can fully restore us to sanity and love.
It is only after laying this foundation, that Paul is able to tell the Ephesians about his active love for them; his prayers and his hopes of being helpful to them in their spiritual growth.
This year, I am humbled and particularly mindful of grace. I felt fully in control of the upcoming holidays and my life on December 15th. The next day my wife was hospitalized and straddled the doorway between this life and the next until the day before Christmas. By God’s grace, we now take things one day at a time. And looking back, I am aware that those moments when I have been most loving and helpful to those around me, have been when I have admitted openly that the steering wheel in my hands is plastic, and then added, that I am okay with that. Thank God.