Five years ago, while studying Ephesians, I wrote a post called “Walking together in a worthy manner.” (Interestingly, we just finished studying and discussing Ephesians together when we gather on Sunday morning.) In this post, I meditate on what it means to “walk in a worthy manner” when everything is not going perfectly among a community in Christ. What if there is relational friction or disagreements? What would it look like then to “walk together in a worthy manner”?
In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul begins to “flesh out” the implications of the previous three chapters of the letter. He begins with these words:
I therefore, 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 4:1-3 ESV)
I’ve been meditating on these verses lately. I realize that Paul is calling us to live a certain way together – remember, this was written to the church, not the individual. But, I’ve also started thinking about the assumptions behind this statement.
Why would Paul remind the church to be humble? Why would he encourage them toward gentleness and patience? Why would the church need to bear with each other in love? Why would they need to maintain unity?
The church is composed of people – yes, the people of God, but we are all still fallen people. In order for the church to walk in a worthy manner, we must recognize that those around us are not perfect. What should we expect? Pride… harshness… impatience… apathy… division. Paul is painting a picture of a church that is composed of real people with real problems. But, Paul also recognizes that there is a solution.
The Ephesians no longer have to respond to pride with pride; they can now respond with humility. They no longer have to respond to harshness in like manner; instead, they can be gentle. When divisions occur, the Ephesians are now able to maintain unity. Why? Because, even though they are human with human failings, they are indwelled by the Spirit. This new people will continue to deal with sin in their lives and in the lives of others, but they can now respond in a completely new way: with the grace, kindness, love, patience, and unity of God.
We who find ourselves in the church should recognize that we will struggle in our relationships with other people. If we were not going to struggle, then there would be no need for Paul’s statement. However, like the Ephesians, we no longer have to respond like the “old man”. We can now respond as the “new man”.
So, as you walk together with those believers that God has placed around you… and as those around you stumble and cause friction… walk in a worthy manner.