Although I played football in Jr. High School almost 40 year ago now, I can still hear my coach's voice like it was yesterday. One of things he said was that it was a privilege to be chosen to play ball, and that we needed to be worthy of that choice. He did not want—indeed would not tolerate—any “dead wood” on our team.
Paul began Ephesians talking about the incredible privilege of being chosen by God. Now, much like my coach, he goes on to say that we need to lead a life worthy of our calling. There is to be no “dead wood” in the church.
So how do we do that? Paul tells us. We are to live with all humility, gentleness, and patience; to bear with one another in love; and to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Wow! Doe that every raise a lot of questions! The questions for me, at least, aren’t about what Paul means—it’s about whether or not I’m doing it.
Take humility, for instance. I heard NT Wright, an Evangelical bishop in the Anglican church, say he always assumes that 1/3 of what he is teaching is wrong. Unfortunately, he said, he doesn’t know what third that is.
Now he makes it crystal clear that he is unwaveringly committed to the Lordship of Jesus the Christ. But he also makes it clear that good Christian people have been mistaken about a good many things, completely convinced they were being faithful to Jesus and the Bible.
In all humility, he would rather not make that mistake. Can you imagine the difference in our churches it would make if we all exercised humility like that?!
Or take bearing with one another in love. If we have to bear with somebody, that means we probably don’t much like them. At the very least, it means there are some very real differences and difficulties in our relationship. But if we are going to bear with them, and even more so bear with them in love, we have to stay in the relationship. Ouch! Can you imagine the difference in our churches if we all did that? We might still be one Church instead of the splintered mess we are today.
Or take the “make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit”. Every effort?!! How often can we say that? How often have we given up, judging the future on the basis of the past, judging God on the basis of our own inadequacies, and seeing a person, a situation, a relationship, as hopeless well before we’d made every effort to allow God to work in the way only God can by the mighty supernatural power of the Holy Spirit? Only then will we have made “every effort” to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
This is a tough, tough passage. Not because it is hard to understand—but because it’s not…