Ephesians 4:2

1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (NASB)

Because Paul is asking the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of their calling, that implies that we can, as Christians, walk in a manner that is not worthy of our calling. Wow! I have to ask myself, am I walking in a worthy manner or an unworthy manner?

Verse 2, which was the verse I was to read today, records the characteristics that will define a worthy walk: humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love. Those certainly are characteristics that I should cultivate in my life. I know that those are some of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit, and know that I want my life to display those attributes.

However, verse 3-6 interested me more. Verse 3 tells us we are to walk with those characteristics, so that we can diligently “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Am I walking to diligently preserve unity and peace with my Christian brothers and sisters?

Who are my “Christian brothers and sisters?” Verses 4-6 makes it clear that there is only one body of Christ. No matter their denomination, their political leanings, their race, their belief on a biblical matter that is not doctrine, and even their belief on doctrines that are not the gospel. If they believe that Jesus died for the payment of their sins, was buried, and was resurrected, so that we might have new life, they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. As such, I am to diligently preserve unity and peace with them.

How do I do that? This brings me back to verse 2. I am to be humble, so I must not arrogantly assume that I am right. I must acknowledge that I have something to learn from them. I am to be gentle, so that means that harsh words (and the attitudes behind those words) are to be eliminated. I am to be patient. This means that it will take time. I have to allow that time, and not give up on the process. I am to be tolerant in love. That means that even when I do not agree with them, I have to give them the same dignity that I want for myself. The dignity to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives and teach them truth.

Mark 12:30-31

30 AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NASB)

This is Jesus answer when asked about the greatest commandment. The scribe asking it agreed with Jesus answer, and the scribe commented that God wanted this obedience more than all sacrifices. Jesus told the scribe that he was close to the kingdom of God.

For the Jews that he spoke to, this would have been a summary of the Old Covenant Law. This was their standard, and anything short required repentance and sacrifice. The scribe’s comments seem to indicate that he understood the concept that sacrifices were not an end unto themselves.  They were required, because we could not keep this law perfectly. God preferred obedience, rather than sacrifice. Knowing this, the scribe was close to accepting who Jesus was. Perhaps when Peter spoke at Pentecost, this scribe accepted the Gospel and became a believer.

How can we apply this passage as New Covenant believers? We are not under a law of rules and regulations, but under the law of love. Does this passage not detail the “requirements” of the law of love? We, too, cannot keep this law perfectly, but our sacrifice has been made by Jesus, God Himself. Therefore, we are free to live this out (with the Holy Spirit’s help) without the shame and guilt of condemnation.

Transparency is Hard

With the beginning of a new year, I have started trying to journal some of my thoughts. Just two days in, this is what I wrote in my journal. It made me think that I needed to start my blog back up again.

12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. – 1 Timothy 4:12-16 (ESV)

This passage was part of my Bible study this morning. Verse 15 stopped me in my tracks. “So that all may see your progress” was the phrase that caught my attention. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Progress, journey, improvement, or the theological word “sanctification” are all words use to describe that time in our life after we are saved, and before we die: that time where God is in the process of making us look more and more like Christ. God uses many varied circumstances in our life to accomplish this purpose. Some days are easy. We have time and energy and motivation to spend time in prayer, and Bible study, and with people of faith. We “feel” closer to Him. Then the other days come. The tough days. It might be circumstances that cause suffering for us, watching our loved ones suffer, or some person who makes us want to lash out in anger and frustration. Either way, those are the days that show us the real progress that we are making on this journey to be more like Christ.

What caught my attention about the passage in 1 Timothy is that this progress is supposed to be where everyone can see it. Wow! I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly don’t like the idea if everyone seeing me make this progress, because that means they are going to see me struggle and fall. They might see the ugly pride and selfishness that still tries to hide in the corners of my heart.

I want to wait for the results of the progress, and then let everyone see it. Let them see just the good, that part if me that God has already molded to look like Him. After all, if they see the other parts, won’t they think that I am a hypocrite. What will they say about Christianity? Will they see my behavior and conclude that Christianity doesn’t work? Will they give up on “organized religion” because I or others can’t live up to the standard that we have set for ourself?

But then I see 1 Timothy 4:15 – “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” Paul’s advice to the young leader, Timothy. I hope I am still young enough to take this advice.