Living Worthy of Your Calling: The First Surprising Implications
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 focused on the exhortation in Ephesians 4:1. We have seen that individually and together, we have recieved a divine calling, and that we need to live out this calling in our daily lives. This calling is, most of all, a summons to belong to God and to participate in his work in the world.
Ephesians 4:2 begins to spell out in detail how we are to live worthy of our calling. It does so, I believe, in a most surprising way. But before I explain what I find so unexpected, I should note that the Greek original of Ephesians 4:2 is not a stand-alone sentence, as we find in the English of the NIV. Rather, the Greek grammar of verse 2 connects this verse strongly to verse 1. A more literal translation might read, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you all to walk worthy of the calling with which you all have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love." In other words, in verse 2, Paul explains what is essential if we are to live out our divine calling.
What he says surprises me. I would expect something more dynamic 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. Proclaim the good news of God's grace in everything you do and say. Heal what is broken 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 picture. Rather, he urges us to be humble, gentle, and patient. This doesn't sound very dynamic or motivational. How am I going to unify the world for God if I have to be humble, gentle, and patient? Then, Paul tells us to put up with each other. By implication, he expects that Christian community is filled with people who need to be endured. Because they'll be slow to change, we'll have to be patient. And even when they mess up, we'll need to treat them with gentleness.
Now I don't have anything against humility, gentleness, patience, or forbearance. I'm all in favor of them. But, why, I wonder, did Paul start here? Why not start with something more visionary, more stirring, more far reaching?
I'll venture an answer to this question on Monday. For now, let me encourage you to consider why Paul began in this way to talk about our response to God's calling. You may also begin to look at your own life and see how it measures up to the standards of Ephesians 1:2.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Go ahead and ponder the questions presented in the last two paragraphs. Why did Paul begin as he did in verse 2? Why are these behavioral qualities so important? To what extent are they found in your life?
PRAYER: Gracious God, I must confess that I am surprised by what I find in Ephesians 4:2. This isn't what I would expect if I were not so familiar with Ephesians. My surprise suggests that I have something profound to learn here, something that has previously eluded my understanding, if not my living. So, teach me, Lord, what I need to learn here. Help me to think your thoughts and to be guided by your encouragements. In particular, help me to be a person of humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance, with your help. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.