I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)
Yesterday we read that born-again believers are to live in a way that reflect who they really are – God’s children [John 1:12]. Just like the child of the Queen of England is expected to conduct him/herself in a way that does not bring shame on the crown, God commands His children to behave in a way that honors Him.
Our behavior honors God primarily in our interpersonal relationships. The words “humility, gentleness, and patience” are all interpersonal words. They describe how we should interact with other believers.
In the first three chapters of this letter Paul discussed how God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ [Ephesians 1:10]. Paul begins the practical portion of this letter with an appeal to unity. It is the responsibility of every believer to maintain unity with every other believer.
That is not to say that we won’t have differences of opinion. We certainly will. Any two people (e.g. husband and wife) will see things differently. And certainly a group of many people will have many opinions and preferences. But disagreement does not have to mean disunity. We can be unified despite our differences and Paul tells us how in this verse.
First, we must be humble. Humility is not a virtue in today’s society and it wasn’t in ancient Greece either. Humility is misunderstood to mean having a low opinion of oneself. But this is wrong. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. Humility is thinking of yourself less – putting other people first [Romans 12:3].
We are also to be gentle; we are to have our emotions under control. This does not mean that we never get angry. It means that we get angry at the right things – the very same things that make God angry like sin. And when we do get angry we express it appropriately.
Christians are also to demonstrate patience. The Greek word here means “longsuffering; not seeking to avenge”. We should not seek our own brand of justice. Rather we are to remember that God is in control and will right every wrong.
The summation of these behaviors is that we should “bear” each other in love. This is very interesting. The Greek word for “bearing” means “to endure”. In other words, God tells us to put up with each other. Its not easy to get along with other people, even those inside the church. If it were, God would not have to command us to do it.
None of us are easy to live with. We are all works in progress and we should see each other this way. Doing so is a gesture of love.
Unity and peace are available through the Holy Spirit as a result of Jesus’ death. It is only in Christ that people can find unity. But it is not automatic. It takes work. We need to make “every effort” to preserve that unity in our relationships.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.