Therefore I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.(Ephesians 4:2-3)
Humility, patience, forbearance, and a dogged determination to guard unity are not options for the Christian. Our calling to Christ places a calling on us to love each other with fierce commitment and tender affection.
Yet these verses are often not a picture of Christ’s bride. There is too much pride, brashness, impatience, separation, and disunity inside of the church. Splits, arguments, cold shoulders, factions, sides, and the like are too common in the halls, sanctuaries, and homes of our congregations.
So what practical steps can we take to walk in a manner worthy of our calling?
Acknowledge God’s Grace in One Another
God is at work in every Christian and He will continue to work in them their entire lives. Yes, we are unfinished projects and there is plenty on which we could choose to focus that deserves blame.
But no Christian’s identity is the sum of their failures. Search for the ways that God is at work in grace in the lives of one another. Major on their sanctification, not on what is left to be sanctified.
Remember that You Need Grace Too
Ecclesiastes 7:21 says, “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.” We often seize on the sinful word or attitude of another without realizing that many times those same things have been in us.
All of us are dependent on the grace of God. All of us have moments that are marred with sin. Our need for God’s grace is no less or no greater than anyone else’s so don’t bang the gavel in judgment against others for the same things you’ll commit that afternoon.
Hope for the Best in Others
I am by nature a cynical person. I have a natural tendency to see positive things in light of a sure to be found hidden fault. It’s almost as though I find joy in finding it! But the Bible calls this by a different name: a sinful lack of love. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13 that part of pursuing love is to “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.”
Love wants the best explanation for someone else’s behavior. It hopes for the best and when such hopes fail, the disappointment is not met with a resigned “I told you so” but rather with forbearance and endurance.
Remember that Community is Better than Loneliness
Being hurt by othersis a painful experience. But it’s worse to go through life alone. Joy in life is multiplied by having others with which to share it. Burdens in life are made lighter by having others who will come alongside to bear it.
It is better for us to jostle one another as we ride through life together than to be a stick stranded by itself, easily broken.
Hope Ultimately in God, Not in Each Other
God is at work in all of us – if we hope that He is at work in us (and realize that we need Him to be!) then that same confidence is the ground of our unity together. Singer Molly Lockwood wrote these words that are a reminder to me when I feel resentment rising in my heart toward another:
You bring me low so I’ll never look down on a brother
And You sanctify me so I’ll trust You to do it in others
You suffer long with me so I’ll suffer long with a friend
And You forgive all my sin so I’ll give up the right
To hold on to offenses tonight
May we, with humble trust in God’s work in the community of His people, walk in a manner worthy of our calling, in humility, recognition of our common need for grace, and love one another for the sake of Christ’s name that we all bear.