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.
For the last several days, we have seen that God has called us to belong to him and to participate in his redeeming, restoring work in the world. As people who have been saved by God’s grace in Christ and newly created in Christ for good works, we are to live a life (walk the walk) worthy of our calling.
Ephesians 4:2 begins to spell out in detail how we are to live worthy of our calling: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” This surprises me. Honestly, I would have expected something more inspiring and visionary. Given the expansive theological vision of Ephesians 1-3, Paul might have said: “Live a life worthy of your calling, making every effort to bring peace and harmony to our broken world. Heal what is shattered in our world as an agent of divine grace, mercy, justice, and love.” Or something like this.
But Paul does not start with a big response to the big story of God’s salvation. Rather, Paul urges us to be humble, gentle, patient, and forbearing. This can feel underwhelming. I don’t have anything against humility, gentleness, patience, or forbearance, mind you. I’m all in favor of them. But, why, I wonder, did Paul start here?
I want to suggest a couple of reasons for this unexpected start. I’ll share one today and another in tomorrow’s devotion.
When I sat back and pondered why Paul began his explanation of living out our calling in such an unremarkable way, all of a sudden it struck me. This is the voice of experience. This beginning reflects the real-life, down-to-earth experience of someone who has spent plenty of time with real Christians in real churches. Paul is not some ivory tower theologian who passes down idealistic counsel that sounds great in the lecture hall but is irrelevant to common life. On the contrary, he is a pastor, a pastoral theologian, and a Christian who has spent plenty of time trying to live out his calling in community with other believers. Paul’s experience explains, in part, his counsel in verse 2.
For example, Paul knows that Christians struggle with humility. We know we’re to be Christ-like in putting others before ourselves, but which of us finds this easy to do? Similarly, we can find it easy to treat people harshly, especially when they disagree with us or disappoint us. So we need to be reminded to be gentle with others, much as God is gentle with us. Patience and forbearance, however necessary, are not easy to produce, either. Yet they are essential if we are to live our calling in tangible ways that really matter. Bringing peace to the world is great, but we must start by making peace right where we live, in our homes, churches, and workplaces.
No matter who we are or what we are doing today, we can begin to live into our divine calling by being humble, gentle, and patient, and by putting up with people who bug us.
Something to Think About:
As you reflect upon the four qualities or behaviors mentioned in verse 2, what strikes you as significant?
Which of these is your strong suit?
Which one of them is most challenging, the area where you most need to grow?
Something to Do:
That’s simple. With the Spirit’s help, put into practice Ephesians 4:2. Today, in response to your calling, actually be humble, gentle, patient, and forbearing.
Gracious God, thank you for the realism of Scripture. Thank you that Paul writes not from some safe distance far away from real community but as one who lived his life in real churches with real Christians. Thank you for the down-to-earth quality of your Word, for the fact that it speaks to the actual challenges and opportunities of our lives.
Help me, Lord, to be humble, gentle, patient, and forbearing. You also know exactly where I am most in need of growth in these areas. So I invite you to do your work in me through the Spirit, that I might live out my calling in a faithful and productive way. Amen.