2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
(Ephesians 4:2 NIV)
In the second half of Ephesians, starting in chapter 4, Paul moves his focus from doctrine to duty, from theology to practice.
In verse 1, Paul began with “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” As we looked back through chapters 1 through 3, we saw the incredible nature of that calling – that God planned it from eternity past, through eternity future, to be one family under God, in Christ, with redemption (salvation) made possible through the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross.
For the next few verses, Paul begins unpacking what it means to live a life worthy of our calling. Today’s verse delivers a lot of punch with a very few words. Let’s take a look.
Surprisingly, the first thing Paul tells us is to “be” something. We would more likely think that he would tell us to “do” something, to take action. Instead, Paul says that we are to work on our character qualities:
- Completely humble:
Being completely humble means to have lowliness of mind toward ourselves, not prideful or arrogant.
C.S. Lewis said it best: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
(quote from his book, Mere Christianity)
Being gentle indicates a condition of the mind and heart that is reflected outwardly through our words and actions. This must not be confused with being weak; actually, it’s quite the opposite – it’s all our power brought under control and used in the loving care of others.
The Greek word Paul uses here (mä-kro-thü-mē’-ä) means to be long-suffering. One scholar (Thayer) best describes this word as “self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong”. This is the opposite of wrath or revenge.
- Bearing with one another:
Another term that is sometimes used is forbearance, or enduring. This is a verb, an action, something we do to or for ourselves. Paul says that we are to endure whatever is going on in our lives, the same as everyone else who is enduring what is going on in their lives. And we do this enduring, not as isolated individuals, but as a group, to support one another.
- In love:
Paul uses the Greek word agape (ä-gä’-pā) here, indicating selfless, unconditional love. This is the same type of love that Jesus had toward us when He gave up His life for ours on the cross.
The point of today’s thoughts are not to give a grammar or vocabulary lesson, but rather, to see how Paul’s thoughts are knit together into an attitude or heart characteristic for others. Truly, this must start with our attitudes, with what’s going on inside of us; that is why Paul starts with “Be” instead of “Do”. Our “why” must be right before we concern ourselves with the “what”, “how”, and “when”. The “who” is universal when our attitude is right before the Lord.
May we take Paul’s short, but compact thoughts to heart, and focus on the “why” and the “be” part. When we get those right, the rest falls into place as the Lord opens doors of opportunity for us to minister to one another.