“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1–3
As I have been reflecting this month on the many ministry experiences that we have been engaged in, these words from the apostle Paul keep ringing in my mind. He uses an incredibly strong word, “beseech,” which means to beg or entreat earnestly. His entreaty is to “walk worthy of the calling.” It would seem strange that Paul, who was writing to the church at Ephesus would need to beg the church to walk in a way worthy of the call of Christ. Wouldn’t they be doing that by default? Isn’t the church full of people who perfectly reflect Christ’s character? Some have thought so; we often behave as if we expect that a person will not enter the church until the process of sanctification is at least 75% complete. This is an expectation that I have found both inside and outside of the church. Many within the church feel as though discovery of a fault or failing in a church member is such a devastation that they will begin to question whether they should go to that church at all. Others, looking in from the outside, feel as though there is no possible way in which they could ever be good enough to join “the Church.”
Into this utterly unbiblical expectation comes the avalanche reality of Paul’s beseeching. Evidently the church (the people in it) are not at the end of their journey of sanctification. The church is in fact full of messy people. People who make mistakes, people who say the wrong thing, people who think the wrong thing, people who do the wrong thing. Common sense would tell any honest Christian that this was so, for after all, if we were to look carefully at our own life (if we are walking with God) it becomes readily apparent that God still has much work to do in us as well. Yet throughout history the Devil has had a heyday by enticing faulty Christians (discovering others with faults) to look down on and mistreat them in word or thought and by so doing we become no better than the Godless media that delights in kicking a person when they are down.
What is God's solution to this problem? God begs us to remember the basics of how to walk, “with all lowliness and gentleness.” These first two principles strike at the core of the problem, often the cause of our mistreatment of one another is our own ego, “they owe me,” “how dare they?,” “who do they think they are?” all of these questions and many more reek of the original sin of pride. Am I a servant or the Master? This is why humility must always be the starting point for my daily walking with God and others. Humility will naturally lead to gentleness towards others. Without these we join the man forgiven the 10,000 talent debt in beating our fellow servants in thought, word and deed both to their face and behind their back. The expansion of these two principles calls us to be “longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” All of these things can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit. Of us, it requires repentance for our hard hearts and unforgiveness, leading to the decision to forgive our brother’s debt as Christ has forgiven us and putting that into practice in Christ’s power in the way we treat them today. The only way that we can walk through the mess is with the grace of Christ, He has come down to embrace us in our mess so let us stop standing above others in theirs. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12). “Father forgive me my highness, let me join you in Your lowness!”