The Challenge

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

You may or may not agree with the characteristics I place in my emphasis on Christians having and maintaining holy manners. There may be things you would add or delete. If you would add, subtract, or both, fine (as long as we stay within scripture’s emphasis). The important things are (1) we stay within God’s emphasis, (2) we concern ourselves with the complete godly character, and (3) we are committed daily to exemplifying God’s teachings. We want to be God’s people. We also want to act like God’s people.

Note three things in Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4:1-3. (1) The way we behave must be worthy of our calling in Christ. Obviously, there are ways to behave that misrepresent Christ. The Christian’s commitment must be (a) to understand the behaviors worthy of our calling (behaviors consistent with who our Savior is and what he is about) and (b) to practice those behaviors daily. (2) The worthy behaviors are based on love’s tolerance (forbearance of love—KJV, RSV, NEB; helpfulness of love—TEV; bearing with each other—NIV, JB). In our southern Christian culture, we put up with each others’ flaws because we love Jesus Christ. We do not confront, declare war, or have a blood-letting. Instead, we lovingly tolerate. It is not, as many say, “the principle of the matter.” It is the fact that we allow Jesus Christ to teach us how to love others. The only way to reflect well on a Savior who died for us and a Father who forgives us is to love others despite their imperfections. (3) Worthy behavior and tolerant love preserve the Spirit’s unity in peace.

Note that Christians preserve unity. They do not create unity. God brought unity into existence through Jesus Christ. We merely preserve what God made possible. See Acts 2:36, 38 combined with Galatians 3:26-28. God does the adding—Jew, gentile, men, women, slave, free, educated, uneducated, successful, failure, prosperous, poor (an unlikely group!). All of us are in Christ by God’s act. We preserve what He made possible. It takes tolerant love to preserve unity in this unlikely group!

Only by learning holy manners can we preserve! God placed each of us in His family. We must treat each other as one in Christ or as one who has potential of being in Christ.

We must never forget that God did not ask our permission to put someone in Christ! We are one because of what God did—not because we made ourselves one! Since it is God’s ambition to save all (see 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; John 3:16-18), the church always has been and will be an unusual group.

May we preserve what God does!

David Chadwell
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 12 July 2007

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