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Have you ever been on one of those horizontal moving escalators in an airport? Last time I went on one when I got to the end there was sign that say “begin walking”. That is a sign that could very easily be placed at this point in the book of the Ephesians. Almost everybody who studies this book of the bible agrees that it is divided into two parts. The first three chapters have been describing our calling as Christians. How we've been called by the Lord to relationship with himself and a relationship with everyone else who has trusted Christ. In the remaining chapters he tells to “begin walking” in what we have learnt. The term walk is of course a figure of speech referring to the way you live your life.
After reminding them he is still a prisoner of the Lord, (Eph 4: 1) he says. I urge you, to live a life worthy of the calling with which you were called. Then he gives us the qualities that should characterize the life of a follower of Jesus. (Eph 4: 2-3) On one level, these words are rather straightforward but there are some nuances in these words that are very instructive.
You probably think you already know what humility looks like. However, the word used here is not one that describes something that can be seen
Humility has more to do with the way that you think. It not about going around with your head bowed. It’s not about putting on a humble face or say things that make you sound humble. In fact, it has nothing to do with what you say, rather it's your frame of mind. Humility is the polar opposite of pride. At its core, pride is saying, I don't need the Lord, I can live my life without God in it. Someone once said, and I quote, “humility is a thankful sense of dependence upon God”. I don't think any of us walked in here today thinking I am proud, and I need to be a more humble but prides is a very subtle and dangerous sin. William Carey was called the founder of modern missions had an incredible life. Many said he was the first man to get non-Catholic Christians to think in terms of mission. Toward the end in his life, he lay dying on the lower deck of the coast of West Bengal and his friends came near to him and started praying for him. He overheard them praising him for all that he had accomplished in his life and he responded, I quote, Don’t talk about William Carey, talk about William Carey’s saviour. When I'm dead just put on my tombstone a poor weak helpless worm, on his kind arm I fall. Today if you go to Serampore in India today, there is the tombstone of William Carey that says just that. That gets to the heart of humility.
We are also told in verse two to be humble and gentle”. The word gentle is also sometimes translated meek. When you think of word like that you automatically think of someone that's weak. Maybe a bit of a doormat perhaps. As a matter of fact a really good definition of this word is better summed up by the phrase, controlled strength. The image used to describe this word here is that of a horse under control. The word gentle from a biblical point of view, is strength under control. Jesus we are told was gentle, meek but do you think Jesus was weak? When he went in and turned over the money tables in the temple, he was anything but weak.
Someone has described gentleness from a biblical point of view in this way. “Unresisting, uncomplaining disposition of mind which enables us to bear without irritation or resentment the faults and misdirected energies of others”. The book of Proverbs tells us that a soft answer turns away wrath. This tells us that when somebody is coming at you and they're angry or aggressive to never respond aggressively. We’ve probably all experienced situations where people are aggressive, and you have felt fearful or even threatened. When I used to be a doorman, I used to advise new doormen that when people were being verbally aggressive towards them, they should always come in at a level below them, because when somebody is angry with you and they're coming at you with a heightened level of aggression. The natural tendency is to go answer them back at the same level. However, the bible tells us in the book of proverbs that, the soft answer turns away wrath. I believe this become more important the more aggressive or even dangerous a person becomes. Never underestimate the importance of speaking the truth in love, even with an aggressive person. By honestly, without judgement establishing and boundried relationship with them. Gentleness, Strength under control – probably saved my skin that night I believe.
We’ve made it past the first 2 characteristics, Being Patient and bearing with one another is the next. There is a story I don't know whether it is true or not, but it is a longstanding tradition which says one day Abraham was sitting outside of his tent when he saw an old man weary from age and a long journey coming toward him. Abraham rushed out greeted him and then invited him into his tent there he washed the old man's feet gave him food and something to drink. The old man of immediately began eating without saying any blessing so Abraham asked him, don't you worship God? The old man replied I worship fire only and show reverence to any God. When Abraham heard that he became incensed he grabbed the old man by the shoulders and threw him out of his tent into the night and the old man had departed. Later that night God appeared to Abraham and ask him, where the stranger was. Abraham replied I forced him out because he did not worship you Lord God said to Abraham, “I have suffered with that man for 80 years although he dishonours me, and you could you not endure him for just one night”. Has God been patient with you? Well, if so, maybe then you should be patient with other people.
Bearing with someone is more than just putting up with them. The idea contained with in this word implies that the other person might have been particularly difficult. This is the ability to love even when aware that someone is in the wrong or may have even offended you, First Corinthians chapter 13 says, “love suffers long, and love bears all things”. Which can mean even when you are offended, or someone is difficult to deal with, you still try and do what's best for them.
Verse 4 finished this opening section by saying; “Making every effort to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” If you're patient and long-suffering, then part and parcel of this means you'll endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit. Notice it says making, “every effort” to keep the unity of the Spirit. You see we have to strive to keep the unity of the Spirit. Someone once said, “Let there be unity in all things necessary, and in things unnecessary, let there be freedom, but in all thing’s – charity”. The things that are necessary and we should be unified in them.
Christians believe in Jesus Christ and we believe he's the son of God. We believe he died on the cross for our sins and arose from the dead. Those are the necessary things, the core of the gospel. Those are the things that unify us. However, there is a whole bunch of things that aren't necessary. Things we don't all necessarily agree with each other on. In the context of the church family it is important that on the unnecessary things we should give each other some freedom. But in all things both necessary and unnecessary, should always be expressed in love. That's the way we maintain the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace Christians who share the basics should lovingly tolerate each other on the differences that are not the foundations of our faith.
A famous prayer by Francis of Assisi said;
“Lord make me an instrument of that peace where there is hate may I have the love where there is offence may I bring pardon and may I bring union in places of discord”.
We need to make every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
Do you see any areas for improvement in your life? Is there anything you need to work on next week, by the grace of God? Do you want to live a life worthy of you calling in the Lord? Because if you do it means becoming a little more humble and a little more gentle. Also, a little more patient, and spending more time endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. That’s how to live a life worthy of the Lord.
Jesus humbled himself above and beyond anyone before, or since. He humbly, meekly, patiently, endured the hardship of his trial and the long suffering of his crucifixion. This passage calls us to be like minded because; “There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to one hope when you were called”(Eph 4:4).
Believers should adopt the same attitude so that they can have a life worthy of him and live in harmony with those who know him also. I submit to you that with, gentleness, humility patience and forbearance we should continue to serve our Lord by serving one another.
Living a Worthy Life