“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing 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 us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Are you living “worthy of your calling”? That means worthy of your high position! A bent policeman or a corrupt politician –by contrast- is unworthy of his position.
This doesn’t mean that we should try to deserve our place in God’s favour. It means that we should recognize how much our place in God’s favour deserves from us. The focus is not on our worth but on the worth of our calling.
God chose us for himself (1:4) and predestined us to be his children—and heirs! (1:5). He sent Christ to atone for our sin (1:7) and sealed us with his Holy Spirit. (1:13). We are “destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory.” That’s our calling, and it’s a lot to live up to!
And the way to do it, according to 4:3, is to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” How? “With all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love.”
So the emphasis here is not on doctrinal unity –that’s taken for granted. We’re all on the same page if Jesus is Lord. He gives a short hand sketch: “One faith, one Lord, one baptism…” but the emphasis is not on what we believe but on how we believe .
And the key word is “together.” We believe together, in lowliness and meekness , in patience and forbearance.
We endure one another! Imagine that. Now perfect people don’t need to be endured or forgiven. But we do, often. Paul is not naïve. He knows that there are a few of us who are grumpy or critical or unreliable or finicky, so his counsel here is not how perfect people can live together in unity, but how real, imperfect people can maintain the unity of the Spirit, namely, by enduring each other in love.
But how can you keep on caring about a person who doesn’t like you? Or a person who opposes you and wants to frustrate your dreams? How do you maintain the unity of the Spirit with them instead of becoming hostile and cold?
Paul’s answer: be lowly in spirit so that you can patiently endure their differences and their sins. A person of lowliness is keenly aware of the size of his debt toward God and how he has dishonoured God through unbelief and disobedience. He is also keenly aware of God’s amazing grace that saved a wretch like him.
When do you write someone off? When they are doctrinally inaccurate (in your opinion)? When they are behaviourally challenging? When they are hateful?
Never. You can never write anybody off.
Because God doesn’t.
(And He never writes you off either).