“Live a life worthy of the calling…”. Paul begins at chapter 4 of Ephesians.
Why start off with this imperative? Because actions grow out of beliefs.
Do we believe that our lives have the call of God upon them? It may be easy to say this when you are young and fiery. But after some storms and heartaches; it can be a struggle to say ‘yes I do’. But it’s because we think of our calling mainly as Activity and Mission. Perhaps Paul had more in mind.
This idea of a life that has a calling also tells us two things: one, life for the Christian is distinct in some visible, manifest way. It also means that it is possible to live a life that is not worthy of this calling (a prospect we should perhaps spend some time on!).
What is this calling?
In fact, Paul has been disclosing this right from chapter 1. Paul peels it back layer by layer for us. He began by the way he addressed us; most of us are uncomfortable and leave the way Paul addresses his readers as some extra-literature tit-bit because he calls us ‘saints’, and ‘the faithful’! Wel, we certainly know better than to consider ourselves saints or faithful; the way we stumble along so often!
But it is a calling not based on who we are, but whose we are.
Paul unpacks it as he goes. It is a calling to a life that is blessed beyond what the temporal and material world can offer. It is a calling to bring praise to God’s glory. Chapter two details how it is a calling to mystery; where mortal man can now come to receive insight and understanding to God, to believe and trust in Him. It is a calling to a new way of being where reconciliation and brotherhood are normative; a calling even angels grapple to make sense of as God’s wisdom will be displayed through those who are called! It crescendos with this: we are called to experience a love that cannot be measured or fathom.
Then Paul emotes with a concern so deep, he urges his readers, us, to remember these varied and amazing dimensions of who we are — and to live in a way that is worthy of it.
For too long, chapter 4 of Ephesians has been reduced to a functional look at the 5-fold ministries (what the 5fold is really about. click to read)
How many sermons have I heard where chapter 4 appears to begin at verse 7! No, there is much more to it. Indeed. this point in the teaching is part of something larger – it belongs with “live a life worthy of your calling…”
As Paul adjures us to consider our lifestyle; he doesn’t leave us without a frame of reference. No, in fact he spells it out for us: there are 4 Cs to living a life that is worthy as individual Christians which result then corporately in a body that is healthy, stable and impacting.
Paul begins by talking about our attitudes and choices which calcify over time to form our character. He describes the following character traits: completely humble and gentle, and patiently bearing with one another.
These traits do not sprout overnight; but are tilled over many years by remembering our calling. Humility is birthed from worship and gratitude. The person who recognizes that his life is a gift and his faith is a mystery will turn his heart in this direction; and in the process will deal gently with others. Humility is also borne as we recognize our darkness and sin and admit to our many limitations and our reluctance to obey easily. To recognize our common humanity is these areas will allow us to bear patiently with one another; knowing we are all work in progress.
There is one body and one Spirit, and we are to make very effort to uphold this. Sadly, the history of the church bespeaks more division than unity. From families to boards to cities, Paul is calling us to recgonise the amazing Grace of God in each others’ lives and know that we have been called forth to belong to God together; where our identity as God’s children is the other side of the same coin that we are brothers and sisters.
There is next a Grace given to each of us that helps us find our place in the body. With humility and a heart bent on seeking oneness, we can move into the spaces and specifications of role in order that the Body grows up. A common sense questions to ask then for churches which are unsure of its growth may be this: are people’s capacities recognized and encouraged?
Whereas Paul began with Character, many of us begin here. We major on being ‘right’ and ‘speaking the truth in love’ to those who we deem are getting it wrong. If we look carefully at Paul’s words, the point is to become stable with a strong core of understanding that allows new ideas to be sieved and interpreted rightly. As we all have a tendency to be taken up with new ideas and trends; we must then lovingly point this out to one another; reminding each other of the core truths which we may be distracted and deviating from. Our convictions are to help us ‘grow up into him who is the Head’ which means simply that they are to shape us into Christlikeness; not give us ammunition to cut someone down to size when we believe they are wrong.
The 4Cs are personal. They are also marks therefore of a maturing, stable, impacting church because they grow out of a people who take their calling seriously.
Which of these 4Cs could the Spirit be trying to grow in the soil of your life?
If you were to describe your church against these 4Cs, where would she stand?