I was blogging last week about the need for Christ actualization (my term) in how we live out our daily walk with the Lord Jesus. We read again in the 4th chapter of Ephesians these words, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a live 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.” (v. 1-3 NIV) Last week we considered the call to humility and gentleness. Today we want to consider a few other characteristics of a worthy walk with the Lord Jesus.
Paul calls us to the need for patience. Patience is necessary in the body of Christ because change in peoples hearts and lives usually is a slow and painful process. One observation I would make about being a counselor for 15 years in Michigan, while serving simultaneously as a pastor, was the clients that I was working with seemed to initiate change way more rapidly than the people in the church. Maybe this had something to do with the fee they were paying (some as high as $95.00 an hour) but it may also have to do with the fact that for many people attending church is a force of habit that has very little connection with everyday life. It also may have to do with the fact that many today are dealing with information overload and don’t know how to separate the life changing information from the spam that we’re bombarded with everyday. Whatever the reason in dealing with people we have to have patience. Patience is not a word of mastery, domination, superiority or ambition but a word about longsuffering with one another and having no confidence in the flesh.
The next phrase that goes along with patience is “bearing with one another in love”. This involves bearing insults and complaints with patient endurance. It is the act of loving one another even though disagreements and perhaps even painful offenses. It is seeking to heal the breaches in the fellowship. Forbearing with one another is putting up with each other in the body of Christ and with all our idiosyncrasies and faults. We tend to do great at finding faults in others when what we really need is to be looking into our own hearts and lives. My directions to our church each month in communion is to examine our own lives, not others people’s lives to see what’s wrong with them.
Finally in the 3rd verse Paul tells us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”. “Make every effort” carries the idea of being diligent by keeping at the effort to preserve the peace. Preserve the peace carries the idea that the peace is already there. This bond of peace is maintained and preserved and promoted by a humble attitude, a patient spirit and forbearing with one another. We can experience diversity in unity; in fact unity can be enhanced when we follow these prescribed characteristics of a “worthy walk”. A strengthening of the peace increases when we clasp that which will ensure our God-given ability to have peace in the body of Christ. That is, as we walk in Christ we walk in maturity, humility and meekness, forbearing with one another; as these all contribute to the unity of the body. Pride, insisting on having things only our own way, is the arch-enemy of peace. It creates much mischief in the body of Christ.
I must confess that in 27 plus years of fulltime ministry I haven’t always reacted to difficult people in the way Paul prescribes. But I must also say that perhaps more times than not, by God’s grace I’ve responded not to the offense that has been delivered but to the grace that I have received through Jesus Christ. In our relationship with Jesus we have been given great power. May we use that power to walk in a worthy manner, preserving the unity of the Spirit and strengthen the bond of peace. Shalom.
All for Christ, Pastor Rich