May 10, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:1-2 (NRSV)
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. . .
According to Ephesians, we are to live out our Christian calling each day. We do this by living with “all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Eph 4:2). To put it differently, if you want to live faithfully as a Christian, start by imitating the humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance of Jesus. Following the example of Jesus is always a great place to start if you want to live out your Christian calling.
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion we focused on the exhortation in Ephesians 4:1: “[L]ead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” I explained that, in this verse, our calling emerges from God’s saving, healing, renewing, life-giving work through Jesus Christ, that work which was revealed in the opening chapters of Ephesians. When we embrace what God has done through faith, we accept God’s calling to live in a whole new way for his purposes and glory.
How should we start living out our calling? If I had been writing Ephesians – which we’re glad is not the case – I would have been inclined to start big. I would have issued some challenge to do grand things for Christ. I would have focused on bold preaching and justice seeking. I would not, I must confess, begin where Paul begins. Now, that’s one reason why we’re glad that Paul was writing this letter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, rather than my sharing my insufficient wisdom.
Look where Paul starts immediately after telling the letter recipients to lead a life worthy of their calling. They’re to do this “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (4:2). These things are not especially grand. They won’t get much attention from the world. They don’t appear at first glance to advance the kingdom of God very much. I mean, humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance are just fine. But they don’t exactly shake up the world. In fact, they seem like things that might easily be ignored or forgotten.
Yet, according to Ephesians, this is where we ought to begin if we’re going to live out our calling. Why are these such primary priorities?
I want to suggest two answers to this question. First, humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance are essential characteristics of Jesus Christ. You may recall that Jesus claimed to be “gentle and humble” (Matthew 11:29). Philippians 2:5-11 celebrates the fact that Jesus humbled himself by becoming human and going to the cross. After calling the Ephesians to walk worthy of their calling, Paul could also have said, “Do this by imitating Jesus” (see 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1). If you want to faithfully live out your calling, it’s never a bad idea to do as Jesus did. In fact, it’s a great place to start.
Another reason Paul prioritizes humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance reflects his pastoral experience with his churches. He knows how easy it is for Christian communities not to get along. He is aware of the dangers of division and strife. He’s seen it happen far too often in his churches. But Paul isn’t merely wanting people to get along because it makes church life nicer. As we’ll see in tomorrow’s devotion, unity among Christians is absolutely essential to our calling as God’s people.
One of the things I love about Ephesians 4:2 is its utter practicality and feasibility. You can I can start this very moment to work on humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. Each day brings many opportunities to reflect one or more of these Christ-like characteristics. Why not begin doing so today?
Do you know Christians who exemplify humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance?
Would those who know you say that you are such a person? If so, why? If not, why not?
What helps you to be more like Jesus in your daily life?
Set aside several minutes in order to take stock of your life. How are you doing when it comes to humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance? Be honest with yourself and with the Lord. Ask God to show you where he’d like you to grow in one or more of these attributes.
Gracious God, thank you once again for calling us to yourself and into your service. Thank you for the opportunity we have to live out our calling each day in practical ways. Thank you for summoning us to humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance.
Help me, Lord, to imitate Jesus today. May I be truly humble both in my heart and in my actions. May I treat people with gentleness. Help me to be patient, especially with those who don’t make it easy. And, by your grace, may I put up with the foibles and quirkiness of others. O Lord, help me to be like Jesus today! Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Imitating Christ’s Humility
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.