I have mentioned before that we are studying Ephesians in Sunday School, and I was convicted today as I prepared for the lesson this week. The text is Ephesians 4:1-17, and within these verses is contained one of the greatest things we can do to fulfill our calling as Christians. What is this thing, you ask? Paul instructs us in verses 1-3 to "walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Sounds simple, doesn't it?
That's what I thought until I started digging deeper in my commentary and study guide. We are not just to tolerate one another until we can get out of Sunday morning worship. We are not supposed to simply roll our eyes and ignore that person (you know exactly who I'm talking about here) who tells the same lame joke over and over and thinks it's hilarious every, single time. This doesn't mean that we can smile to the faces of those who annoy us and then talk about them over lunch after church.
What this passage talks about is a real affection for brothers and sisters in Christ, and that being enabled by the Holy Spirit we embrace and love each other in the spirit of unity and peace. We put aside our selfish pride and we rebuke (and apologize, as the case may be) with an attitude of love and patience. I love that scripture in Proverbs! "Wounds from a friend are trustworthy"...wow! We should love and trust each other enough as children of the living God to be honest with each other. A loving rebuke from a friend can be trusted...I would much rather be lovingly critiqued by my friend than to be talked about by my enemies and never change the problem. It might hurt a little to hear it, but the joy of growing in Christ and strengthening those bonds with a fellow Christian are incomparable.
What this means is that we filter all those idiosyncrasies and annoying habits through the mind of Christ. Do your children's annoying habits make you love them less? What about your spouse? Parents? Of course not. We love them in spite of their faults and sometimes we love them more because of them.
If we are to be a spiritually mature church and unified in Christ, then we need to start seeing our fellow siblings in Christ in a much different light. I love this quote from Dr. D.G. Barnhouse: "Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Long-suffering is love enduring. Kindness is love's touch. Goodness is love's character. Faithfulness is love's habit. Gentleness is love's self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins."
Lord, help me!!!!
Anyone who knows me is aware of my tendency to me judgemental and impatient in nature. I don't like frivolous people who tell stupid, predictable jokes. I don't like people who are superficial and those who have an insatiable need for attention and approval. I know how I like my people, and if you don't fit my bill I will more often than not just write you off as not worth my time or energy. But all the while I am silently pleading to not be judged myself. Please don't judge me by my weight or by my clothing. Please don't judge me because of my sometimes tactless mouth and watchful eyes.
Lord, help me.
This is one of many areas in my life that need an Extreme Makeover. I know what I need to do, but my heart is rebellious and I slip right back into those old, comfortable habits. I need to pray for a broken and repentant heart about this behavior. The only way that I am going to overcome this sin is through the working of the Holy Spirit, and I make a vow today: I will overcome. I will open myself fully to the Spirit and strive for spiritual maturity and unity within my own church. Lord, help me.