Monday, January 02, 2006

Ephesians 4:1-16

When I was an infant I was truly but not fully human. Being truly human – in the sense of being human instead of some other creature – is only the beginning of being fully human. To live into the fullness of human personhood takes a lifetime.

We see this manifestly in children. Children grow in many ways: intellectual; emotional; moral; and spiritual. That children grow physically seems to make visible the reality of their non-physical growth. We expect change over the years for children. We expect growth in a myriad of ways, physical and non-physical.

When we reach adulthood, we may lose much of this expectation for our self. We no longer mature physically as children do. We age instead of mature. To the extent we grow physically, it is often in unhealthy ways. Sadly, along with this we may lose an expectation of continual maturation in intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual ways. Far too much, we only grow in these things unevenly, fitfully, or meagerly.

Yet Paul, in this rich passage in Ephesians, exhorts us to continual spiritual growth or maturation. His evocative phrase – “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” – and his unpacking of it deserve our long, prayerful reflection. In this space we can only note two principles of great importance.

The one principle is the necessity of spiritual growth. God truly gives us new life in Jesus. The fullness of this new life requires growth over time. It is unworthy of Jesus and our relationship with him to remain spiritual infants. We must grow in spiritual maturity over our entire life. The second principle is the measure of a worthy life. God calls us to live in a manner worthy of the new nature he has given us. How do we know what is worthy? A clamor of voices in our culture promote this or that standard of the full and good life. Paul points to one standard only: “…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

God makes us new people. God energizes us through the Spirit to mature continually. God shows us in Jesus what it means to live truly and fully human, over this life and into the next. What a glorious goal! Nothing else is as worthy as what God desires and makes possible for us in Jesus! May we, with Paul, ever grow in living a life worthy of what God has made us.

Gregory Strong

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