1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
In the first three chapters Paul taught the essential truths of wealth, we’re blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit. Now as we come to chapter four we have to ask whether our behavior match our beliefs? Does our walk match our words? As Paul uses the word walk he paints a picture for us of both progress and purpose. Our relationship with Jesus involves going somewhere, taking the next step with the Savior. Before Jesus Ephesians 2:2 reminds us that “You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil.” Our purpose was pagan, there was no real progress, we simply drifted from darkness to darkness. Wherever the winds of this world and wickedness blew we wandered. But now through Jesus we are called to pursue a path of purity. So let me ask you, where are you going and how are you living? Does your life reflect His righteousness? It’s not what we look like but how we live that matters. It’s not a matter of presentation but of perspective. It’s not an issue of appearances but of attitudes. Paul had a right perspective, he lived with passionate purpose, selling out his life for the Savior and preaching to us from prison. After calling us to a life of action Paul now focuses our action on our:
To walk worthy of the name of Christ is not only a matter of action but also of attitude. Paul says that our attitude in life must: “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” The first attitude Paul addresses is humility, having an appropriate opinion of ourselves. This means looking at our lives through God’s grace, choosing not to see ourselves as anything less or anything more. When it comes to attitude we need to be alert and pay attention lest we fall into pride. Pride wants to puff up, to give us an inflated sense of status, so that we see ourselves as superior to others. And because pride is preoccupied with self and its own strength it causes us to settle into a smug self-reliance that ruins our relationships. It encourages our ego leading to an attitude of arrogance. We need to starve out self by creating a hunger for humility. Are you being wary and watchful against the predator of pride? Someone once said that “Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it.” There is a story about a young seminary student in Scotland. He was highly gifted and a leading student in the school. Because of his reputation and excellent grades, a local church invited him to teach one Sunday morning. Since he was a rising star in that denomination he entered the pulpit with great pride and expectations. When he stood before the congregation to preach, he was overtaken with fear and stage fright, unable to say a word. He began to cry and weep and ran out of the church humiliated. A sweet saint followed him out and caught up to him. She shared these insightful words with him, “Young man, if you had only walked into the pulpit as you came down, you would have walked down as you went up.” Next we are called to walk in gentleness, which is the same word that is often translated as meekness. Meekness is power under control for the benefit of others. Greek uses of the word give great insight into its meaning, it was used to describe a soothing medicine, a colt had had been broken, or a soft wind. Each of these situations describe power and strength under control. Jesus modeled meekness for us, calling us to learn from His leading in Matthew 11:29: “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” We are called to have our emotions under control, this doesn’t mean we don’t have feelings it means we don’t follow our feelings, we follow the Father. Paul now points us to patience, which means to persevere through tough situations and times. It is literally the idea of being long-tempered, bearing injuries patiently without lashing out or seeking revenge. It is the principle of handling adversity without overreacting and maintaining a level head. Paul is not talking here about being patient with circumstances, this is people patience, and when we exercise people patience we practice the art of relationship. Being honest and admitting first that we are imperfect people helps us to see the need for people patience. Patience provides a way for us to both process our weaknesses as well as the space we need to see each other’s strengths. In 2 Corinthians 6:6 Paul says that we “approve ourselves as ministers of God… by patience” Learning to patiently bear the insults and injustices which threaten to hurt us is an immense challenge. Especially when we consider our current culture that teaches and trains us to look out for and after self. We tend to focus on our rights over relationship, we respond more based out of fear than freedom, because we want to make sure that no one takes advantage of us. Yet Jesus taught us in Luke 6:29 that we need to be long-suffering and patiently bear injustices without seeking revenge in anger: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.” We all have faults and failings and if we don’t learn to patiently forbear with patience we will constantly be at each other’s throats. How much more peaceful would our lives be if we would learn to stop being short and getting under each other’s skin and simply serve each other with patience. How much more of a happy home would you have if you were a little more long-suffering? Last but not least we are called to an attitude of love. Love is the key to being long-suffering, I Corinthian 13:4 says “Love suffers long and is kind.” Love protects us from being legalistic and looking at the letter instead of the spirit. It frees us to stop focusing on the failures and flaws of others and just love. So often our ability to love is limited because we divide and thus diminish our energy between trying to love and…. . Without love we quickly dismiss the real needs of others and jump to justify our judging mentality. By making allowances for faults we let people be human, which not only brings hope to the heart of our relationships, but also lets us handle the heart hurts with healing. Are you loving lavishly or are you leaning on legalism? Loving lavishly doesn’t mean that we don’t speak the truth; it means that we don’t throw the truth. Truth is the vessel but love is the channel that carries it. So often we try to launch truth into people’s lives when there is no love to bear and bring it. We launch truth into a dry dock and wonder why it’s a disaster. When it doesn’t float we falsely surmise that it sank because the sinner we sent it to scuttled it. Yet the reason for our truth tragedy is that we failed to launch it in love. Truth is weighty, it can displace the darkness but it needs love to support and sustain it. It needs the currents of love to carry it carefully lest it hurt the heart instead of heal. Don’t let truth run aground around you, launch it in love and let its currents carry it home to healing. Is there any area that your attitude needs attention in? Do you have a problem with pride that needs the healing that only humility can bring? Are you being gentle and patiently loving or repeatedly running over people in your hurry to live your life?