A little more pop theology today…
While in prison in Rome, awaiting his trial and eventual execution, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the small Christian community in Ephesus. That letter eventually was incorporated into the New Testament of the Bible, as the book of Ephesians. Its fair to say that its one of the best-loved books in the Christian Bible.
This letter, relevant to a struggling, persecuted, underground Christian community 2,000 years ago, still resonates powerfully now, even to us comfortably unpersecuted above-ground believers.
Today I just want to focus on one passage in the letter. Paul offers this advice to the believers in Ephesus:
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Let’s break that down. The “calling you have received” is what we now call Christian faith. So what Paul is offering here, is a simple summary of what one might do to live a life “worthy” of that faith.
Simply put, Pauls says that to live a life worthy of the faith, we should be humble, patient, gentle, loving and peaceful. Of course, its no mystery where he came up with those qualities. They are the qualities that Jesus exhibited. To live a life worthy of the faith, therefore, is to live like Jesus lived. Because Jesus was humble, patient, gentle, loving and peaceful, his followers should strive to be those things as well.
This advice doesn’t sound radical, but it is. These words probably just sound like “church stuff” that many of us have heard all our lives. We believe the words (we think) and probably even assume that we’re honoring them.
But do we really try to be “completely humble and gentle?” Do we really make every effort to keep unity through peace?
Think about it. If I asked you to give me one word that describes someone who is “completely humble and gentle”, what might that word be? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be “Christian.” More likely it would be “weak”, or “passive,” or “meek.” In our culture, just as in the Roman culture 2,000 years ago, weakness, passivity and meekness are not considered admirable character traits. Its a dog-eat-dog world right? Nice guys finish last, right?
So following this advice is a way to get eaten by the big dogs. A way to be sure of finishing last. At least that’s what modern culture tells us.
But if, in order to be worthy of Christ’s calling, one must live a life of complete humility, gentleness, love and peace, then isn’t it fair to say that a life without complete humility, gentleness, love and peace, is a life unworthy of the calling? And that calling, after all, came at a very great price to Jesus.
I once read that in the first 300 years of Christianity, it was very easy to tell who the Christians were. They were the folks who fed the poor, who visited those in prison, and who were merciful to the undeserving. They were persecuted, but had no fear of persecution. They stood out, because they cut against the cultural grain. They were leading lives worthy of the calling they had received.
Looking at myself in that light, I don’t like what I see.
Grace and Peace