December 11, 2015 • Life for Leaders
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, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Ephesians 4:1 urges us “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called.” What is this calling to be lived out in our daily lives? It is what the first three chapters of Ephesians have revealed about God’s plan and our crucial part in it. God is gathering all things together in Christ (1:10). Through the cross, we are reconciled to God and to each other (2:1-18). Christ brings peace to formerly divided people groups, uniting them in one body, one nation, one family, one temple (2:19-22). The church is not merely a result of God’s unifying work; it is also a sign to the cosmos of God’s plan to gather everything in Christ (3:10). Embedded in this grand divine plan is an implicit calling, which will be made explicit beginning in Ephesians 4. Through the gospel, God has summoned us to live differently, to embody in tangible ways who we are in Christ as the people of God.
If reconciliation among groups is so central to God’s plan, we might expect the exhortations of Ephesians 4-6 to call us to be reconciling people. Indeed, they do. But the beginning is not what we might expect. We might imagine God enlisting us in some great work of reconciliation, calling us to shine his light into the darkness of our culture. Indeed, this will come in Ephesians 5. But the starting point of living our calling is not macro but micro. It has to do with how we treat the people right around us: our family and friends, our colleagues and neighbors.
How are we to lead a life worthy of our calling? We are to live “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:2-3). The reconciliation to which we have been called by God begins with how we live each day, in the nitty-gritty of ordinary life. As we reach out to bring reconciliation and justice to a divided world, we must treat the people in our lives in a reconciling and just way.
In today’s multicultural world, most of us have an opportunity – indeed, a calling – to foster racial reconciliation right where we live. We can treat the neighbors who don’t look quite like we do with “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with [them] in love” (4:2). As the people of God wrestle with the challenges of racial reconciliation, we can “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:3). This passage reminds us to pursue the cause of Christ with the character of Christ. As Joy J. Moore writes in a recent edition of the Fuller Magazine, “Reconciliation begins when Christians live out the gospel with such grace-filled welcome that hatred is transformed into love, anger is transformed into forgiveness, and segregation is transformed into community” (“Working Together Toward Racial Reconciliation”, in Fuller Magazine).
One of the things I love about today’s text from Ephesians is that it is so practical. Every single one of us can begin to live its truth today. No matter our role at work, we can treat the people around us with humility. No matter where we live, we can relate to our neighbors with gentleness. We can learn, by God’s grace, to treat all people with patience, to bear with their foibles. Such actions may seem small and insignificant. But they are mustard-seed-sized and God-honoring responses to our calling to be people who live out the good news that God is reconciling all things in Christ.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you understand your whole life in light of “the calling to which you have been called”? How do you envision your calling in light of Ephesians 1-3?
Do you live “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love”? Which of these traits would you say is most common in your life? Which one is rare?
Do you seek to “maintain the unity of the Spirit” in your church? How? Do you seek to “maintain the unity of the Spirit” that bridges cultural and racial divides? How?
Gracious God, your Word to us is clear. We are to walk worthy of the calling with which you have called us. If we have received Christ through faith, then we have been called by you. We are called to relationship and to serve you in this world. You have called us by what you have done through the cross of Christ, forgiving us, saving us, and uniting us to those from whom we were once divided. You have chosen to make your good news known to the whole world through us, through your united people, through the church.
Through all of this you are calling us to be who we are in Christ, to live as reconciled and reconciling people. Help us, dear Lord, to do this not only in the big causes of our lives, but also in the everyday business of living. Help me to be humble and gentle with my colleagues. Help me to treat those I supervise with patience. Help me to bear with my neighbors in love. By your grace, help me to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
May I be a person who lives out the calling of the gospel—not just when I am with my brothers and sisters in Christ but at all times. May those with whom I work experience through me a bit of your reconciling grace. May they taste a morsel of your justice and love in my words and deeds. Amen.
P.S. If you are looking for a more thorough explanation of our calling as Christians, I recommend the book Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today, by Mark Labberton. Mark, the president of Fuller Seminary, has laid out in clear terms what it means for us to live lives worthy of our calling.
Image Credit: “Infinity” in the Nagasaki Peace Park in Japan, photographed by miya via http://susono.jugem.jp/?page=1&cid=161.
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.