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A worthy manner
“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. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
There’s no excuse
You simply can’t miss the phrase “a prisoner for the Lord.” Paul is a prisoner because he walked in obedience to Jesus as “a preacher and apostle and teacher” (2 Tim. 1:11). There is no failure, no sin, no mistake, no shortcoming here. Paul did what Jesus called him to do and got incarcerated for it.
Maybe we’ve grown to expect Paul to be locked up somewhere. Maybe the historical distance softens the intended impact. But stop to consider the implications for a moment. From prison Paul admonishes the church in Ephesus to walk in a manner worthy of their calling.
There simply is no excuse for the church not to walk in a manner worthy of her calling. Paul, the “ambassador in chains” (Eph. 6:20), removes all alibis. No demand from governing authorities, no trouble or hardship, no amount of threat or manipulation, no criticism or accusation can justify an unwillingness in the church to walk in obedience to Jesus as his people.
A worthy manner
Paul describes in vivid detail what it looks like to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” This isn’t flowery language or a trite suggestion. He qualifies a worthy manner with five vividly descriptive ideas:
More than a quality possessed by those in the church, humility is actively placing the needs of others before your own. There is no room for entitlement with humility, no demand for honor. One of the most certain indicators that humility is present comes when we move toward those who hurt or offend us to love and serve them, rather than accuse and condemn them (Mark 10:42–45; Rom. 12:14–16; Phil. 2:1–11).
Whether it makes our list of God’s attributes or not, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth has revealed himself to be . . . gentle. It is not a mark of the church to be passive or permissive. To truly love one another, we must correct one another, rebuke one another, and discipline one another. And we must do so with gentleness (Matt. 11:28–30; 2 Tim. 2:24–26; Heb. 12:7–11).
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 15 years of pastoral service, it’s this: immaturity always lacks patience. The tragic outcome when we refuse to persevere, whether naively or stubbornly, is an absence of character in individual believers and an absence of fruit in the broader community (Acts 13–14; Rom. 5:1–5; James 1:2–4; 2 Pet. 1:3–11).
4. Bearing with one another in love
The implication of Paul’s language here is that those around you have shortcomings. A total shock, right? Yet every one of us tends to be blind to our own sin and easily frustrated with the sin of others. Nevertheless, there’s no way to love like Jesus without selflessness and sacrifice (John 13:12–16, 15:12–13; 1 Cor. 13; Gal. 2:11–21).
More than pro-unity
The fifth aspect of a worthy manner is unity.
Did anyone else have to suffer through church business meetings when they were little? Robert’s Rules of Order, those in favor “aye,” those opposed “nay,” etc. If the motion were ever made for the church to be unified, I simply cannot imagine there being anyone opposed to it.
Asking the church if we are pro-unity is like asking my kids if they are pro-candy. It’s an obvious, “Yes!” Of course, the church is eager for unity. We love unity. There is, after all, only one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. Unity is a birthright of the church.
But Paul doesn’t say that walking in a worthy manner requires the church to be eager for unity. He calls the church to eagerly maintain unity. That’s different. There’s difficulty, hardship, and challenge implied. There’s a battle at hand. While the church was handed unity at birth, the church must fight to keep it.
Fight for unity—that’s what I’m asking of the elders and leaders of my church, Mars Hill Huntington Beach. Walk in a manner worthy of your calling: humbly, gently, patiently, bearing in love, eagerly maintaining unity. Pray for our church. Pray for our leaders. Pray for the church. Pray for church leaders. Pray for Spirit-empowered love for one another and Spirit-empowered love for lost people. Pray that we “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15).