Ephesians 4:1-3 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
I have preached quite a few times on verse one, but I realize right now that the next two verses describe what it looks like to live a life worthy of your calling in Christ. This isn’t talking about achievements, about numbers of converts or anything of the sort. Rather, it is talking about our interactions with others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. The NIV isn’t wrong in saying “live a life,” but the Japanese follows the Greek more literally by saying “walk.” The image of walking is motion; you can’t walk sitting down. We aren’t called to be spiritual couch potatoes, we’re called to keep moving. Sometimes that will look more active and sometimes less, but there is progression; we aren’t sitting still. I like the fact that the Japanese connects verses 2 and 3 as one sentence, because the things mentioned can’t be done in isolation, but are together a picture of those who are called by God and living like it. Looking back over 2000 years of Church history, if everyone had followed this advice we would have not only a different Church, but even a different world than we have today. Humility, patience, unity and love have been sadly lacking all too often. As the Bible points out in many places, our real enemy isn’t anyone we can see with our physical eyes, and when we act like those people are our real enemies, we are losing the fight. Cartoonist Walt Kelly put some profound words into the mouth of his beloved character Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” We see our own sins and weaknesses reflected in those around us and react against them, failing to “get the beam out of our own eye,” as Jesus put it. (Matthew 7:3-5) Cleaning up our own act requires the humility Paul mentions here, and that is all too often in short supply.
I’ve certainly had my struggles with pride, and I have lived very unworthy of my calling in Christ far more than I like to think about. It does seem that God has made progress in that area in me, but I’m certainly not to a place where I can ignore the issue. My wife tells me I can definitely be less than gentle when correcting others, sometimes over very insignificant things. My perfectionism has literally driven people out of this church, and that is certainly unworthy of the name of Christ. I am indeed to speak the truth, but if I fail to do so in love, the fact that it is true becomes unimportant. Genuine love desires the very best for the one loved, and sometimes that requires very firm correction, but there must be gentleness and respect, and the bond of peace in the Holy Spirit. I’m still learning!
Father, thank You for this Word this morning. Help me indeed live it out, walk it out, making progress with every step, so that as Christ is formed in me, many may be drawn to repentance and faith and fellowship with You and with one another, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!