Ephesians 4:1-3 1I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Every Christian has a vocation; a job given to them from God Himself. In this passage of Scripture God very clearly tells us what it is and gives a Job Description so we will not be confused about anything. It is broken down into three parts:
- Walk with lowliness, meekness and longsuffering.
- Forebear one another in love.
- Keep the unity of the Spirit.
If every Christian were to concentrate on living this way, there would be happy, productive churches for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Since this is a personal vocation, it does not require, nor does it suggest that every Christian should help their brother or sister to fulfill their assigned role. Indeed! These three things are something each Christian must do on their own; they don’t depend on the reaction of the brethren to suggest success.
Each and every Christian must work on these things alone. Therefore, I ask you: Are you walking a lowly, meek and longsuffering life? Are you forbearing one another in love? Are you doing what you can to keep the unity of the Spirit? Perhaps, perhaps not. Possibly, you don’t understand what these three things mean.
Lowliness, meekness and longsuffering.
Walking in lowliness means that you put others first. This is a direct attack on the pride that tries to rule every man’s life. To put others first, you must first swallow you pride and put others first. If you like to talk, then you be quiet and let others talk instead. If you like to be the center of attention, then you give the attention to others instead. If you think in your heart that you can do better than the teacher, then you give that up and reckon the teacher is better than you. If you think about another person, “you just don’t know what I am going through”, then you think, they understand something about what I am going though. It means to put yourself down. I don’t mean to talk bad about yourself in the presence of others (like saying, “I’m so fat.”). I mean–put others first and brag on them. There is nothing like bragging on others to keep your pride in check. You can always tell a lowly church member because they are bragging on their preacher and bragging on their church.
Walking in meekness means to be mild or gentle; to be soft tempered. This speaks directly to submission. Pride thinks, “I’m better”. Meekness says, “I give up.” Not in the sense that you throw up your hands in the air and discontinue trying to do better, but in the sense that you quit striving with others. You cannot have a fight if one person just gives up. It would look silly because one person would just be swinging at the air (1 Cor. 9:26). When trying to have a conversation with someone, and another person keeps butting in overriding everything you say, just give up. Stop competing with them to get your word in. When thinking, “the pastor is just preaching that because he knows I’m…”, just give up and reckon God is working through him. When people are saying something bad about your church, and you feel tempted to say bad things too, just give up and realize that no church is perfect and you are going to do your very best to make things better. Stop waiting for the others to do it–submit to your heart’s complaint.
To walk in a longsuffering manner means to be patient. Here is where many Christians fail the most; they don’t give God a chance to answer their prayers concerning the state of their church, brethren or pastor. They want something to happen now, or at least pretty quickly. They tend to forget about the patience of God. At times they may even be giving God ultimatums without realizing it. When God doesn’t answer the way they want, or when God’s answer is NO, they think there is no answer so they need to make some change on their own–usually leaving the church for something else. Instead of telling God, “If you don’t answer my prayer by next month, then I will know you are saying leave this church,” exercise longsuffering and tell God, “You will have to take me out of this church so I will know it is you doing it instead of self.” Instead of saying, “I am going to spend my summer fishing on Sundays,” say “God, if you want me to miss church and go fishing on Sundays, you’re going to have to stop me. Be longsuffering in your walk and realize that God is doing something in your life because of it.
Forbearing one another in Love
Two things to consider in this one statement: Forebear and Love. The two go hand in hand. It is almost impossible to have one without the other. This speaks directly about how a Christian is to relate to other Christians. They are to love each other and at times that means you have to “hold them up.” Really, to love someone you have to put up with allot, but it doesn’t seem that way because you love them. To get an idea of the concept “forebear” you should think about a soldier carrying a wounded comrade off the battlefield. It is not easy to pick them up and sling them over your shoulder while the bullets are flying all around you. It is not easy to bear his weight along with the weight of your own pack, ammo and weapon. It’s not easy to feel his blood running down your back and arm. But, he rescues his buddy, putting his own life at risk, because he loves him. This is how Christians should treat the brethren of their own church. They should put their own life at risk to do the difficult thing for the brethren because they are wounded and incapable of functioning at the moment. They need to be restored. What we need in the church are “spiritual medic’s” instead of selfish back stabbers. Churches need not be full of “feel good, muckey muck, goody two shoes” Christians. They look and feel good on the surface, but underneath they have no guts. We need the “medics” who can rescue and restore their brothers in Christ. Instead of saying, “That’s a great idea, but don’t ask me to do it”, why not say, “Let me think of some ways that I can help out.” Instead of saying, “Sounds good! I’ll pray for you.” Say, “Let’s pray together about this right now.” Instead of thinking, “He should have done it this way or that way,” think, “I wonder if there is anything I can do to help him improve it. I don’t want him to think is all alone and abandoned on the battlefield. I’ll ask him as soon as he is done speaking.” Bearing the burdens of others doesn’t mean taking them away from them. It means to help them as a team would do.
Keep the Unity of the Spirit
This speaks of a common cause. the USA is full of people from diverse cultures and race. Each have their individuality, yet are united as well. On certain things, a Californian will never be able to understand a New Yorker. Still there are other things that the two will fully understand each other. I don’t like to say these are things of “common ground” as much as I would say that these are the things that make them both the same; the things that they choose to unite them–their nationality.
In the case of a Christian, and more importantly a church, these “things” are one: the Spirit of God. Corporately, all Christians have the Holy Spirit that unites us all, but there is a spirit in each church as well. I am talking about the body of Christ being comprised of individuals, all having the Holy Spirit, congregating in the same location because they are all similar. Eyes being where eyes should be; toes being where toes should be, etc. In this sense they are all of the same body, but in the right location in that broader body and God is the one who places you where He wants you (1 Cor. 12:18-20). To keep the Unity of the Spirit means to stay where God placed you in His body and not attempt to fulfill a role that you were not designed for. When being an eye, and trying to hear like an ear, you become a rogue cell and that is called cancer. The body (or church) does not need cancerous Christians. It needs Christians who are Unifying the body by fulfilling their purpose; doing what they were designed to do.
These are the jobs that God gives to every Christian. Unfortunately, many Christians are not fulfilling their designed purpose. They have either dislodged themselves and are floating around freely in the body, or they have become cancerous (not dislodged, but fulfilling some other purpose not intended for the part of the body where the Lord placed them.) Oh that churches had Christians who would fulfill their job description. We then would have strong, exciting and vibrant churches. Not places where you go to “feel good” about yourselves, but places that were strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.