I would not be writing anything amazingly original if I was to write about the fact that our world is becoming increasingly individualistic. We hear it all the time; how no-one really interacts anymore because of social media, how people don’t talk to each other on planes or trains or buses, how the professional world is a kill-or-be-killed, eat-or-be-eaten kind of environment.
I find myself jumping on that conversational bandwagon often, with a kind of I-still-have-real-conversations and still-talk-to-strangers-in-the-grocery-store kind of superiority. But then I come to a verse like this one and see it only for how it speaks to me about me, when really there’s so much more going on:
Ephesians 4:1-3 NIV
“…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
Here, Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus – a very large group of people; he’s issuing them with a challenge to live lives worthy of the calling God has given them (what a beautiful charge!). And in case they miss the fact that he is not issuing this challenge to them only as individuals, he goes on to give them instructions for how they should interact with one another while doing this (or, perhaps, in order to do this):
Ephesians 4:2 NIV
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Paul is issuing a clear reminder here that our individual purpose is found in the collective, in the “one another”; that our belonging to the body of Christ is the key to discovering our calling. That our purpose and future is tied to the local church. He charges us to be humble, patient and gentle, and reminds us of the critical importance of cultivating and protecting unity in the church.
The challenge to us today is to consider how we view our calling. Do we view it as being primarily an individualistic thing – just about satisfying ‘me’ and ‘my’ potential or ‘my’ dreams, hopes, and needs? If so, we need to revisit the incredibly high value that Jesus places on the local church – the people that it is made up of and the cause that it serves – and ask Him to begin to reveal to us how we can respond to this revelation.
Written by Michelle Bruyns