The Perspective That Can Change Your LifeDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Today, we return to our prayerful reading of Ephesians, picking up where we left off in July. As you may recall, we just finished the first three chapters of this amazing letter. (For a brief review of the contents of these chapters, see the reflection for July 22.) Whereas the initial chapters are heavily theological, the final three focus on how to live in light of God's plan for the cosmos, which includes you and me.
Paul begins the second half of Ephesians in this way: "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" (4:1). When he speaks of himself as a prisoner, Paul refers to his actual imprisonment, something we first learned about in Ephesians 3:1, where Paul describes himself as "the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles." Later on in the letter, he will portray himself as "an ambassador in chains" for the gospel (6:19-20). We do not know the precise circumstances of Paul's imprisonment, though it's possible he was in Rome under house arrest.
It is both significant and striking that Paul speaks of his imprisonment, not in historical terms, such as: "As a prisoner in Rome" or "As one sitting in chains in a Roman house." Rather, Paul describes himself as a "prisoner for the Lord" (4:1). This translation is possible, though the original language could be rendered more literally as "the prisoner in the Lord." Yes, he is a prisoner of Roman power. Yes, he is caught in chains. But Paul's life is not defined by these external circumstances. Rather, his bondage is for Christ or of Christ or in Christ, even as Paul lives his whole life in Christ and for Christ's purposes.
Notice that Paul does not live in denial. He does not ignore his chains. Rather, he sees them in a perspective that reframes his experience. What defines Paul's life is not what happens to him as a victim of oppression. Rather, the defining characteristic of his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ and his commitment to live faithfully in light of his particular calling.
When we see our lives primarily in terms of external circumstances, if we allow what happens to us from the outside to define us, then we can easily feel stuck, victimized, and discouraged. But if we can see from the perspective of faith, if we can view our lives in light of God's grand purpose for the cosmos and for us, then we can reframe our experience. Even our challenges, disappointments, and suffering can have meaning in Christ. God can and will redeem the hardest parts of life, using them for our good and his glory.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you currently experiencing difficulties that might look different if you were to see your whole life as "in Christ"? Why not take some time to step back and see your life from the perspective of faith, from the vantage point of God's grand plan in Ephesians?
PRAYER: Gracious God, as I read Paul's description of himself, I am struck by how easily I can define my life in terms of my circumstances. If my day is going well, then life has joy and meaning. If I'm feeling frustration or sadness or pain, then these emotions can determine how I experience everything else. Forgive me, Lord, when my perspective is narrow, selfish, or trivial.
Help me, I pray, to have the perspective of Paul the prisoner. Help me to see all of life in light of your grace. Give me eyes to see how all things in my life, even the difficult ones, find new meaning and purpose in light of your salvation. May I live this day fully "in Christ," relying on his grace and power, seeking his presence and glory in all things. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Youth Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.