Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 25 2013 - Ephesians 4:1-16 – Great expectations

"I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received" Paul writes in Ephesians 4:1. God has redeemed us through his Son and has made us his children. So he calls us to live as his children, members of his family.

Let's be honest, family life is not always easy. There are many families where some members have not spoken to others for years. Sometimes the cause of the rift is well remembered by each side (though the stories each side will tell will no doubt be different). At other times the reason for the split may have been long forgotten but the animosity or indifference remains. Paul is concerned that Christians should not become a divided family. He writes, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (vv. 3-6).

How can we keep the family together? A good place to start is with what Paul has to say in verse 2, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." We need to be completely humble; we are all junior members of the family; Jesus Christ is our older brother and we need to take our lead from him. We are to be gentle in our dealings with one another and to bear with one another (or even put up with each other) out of love. If God our Father patiently bears with us in love, can we not bear with one another? If Jesus will never disown those for whom he gave himself in love, can we not embrace one another? I am reminded of the lines of an old hymn, "Could we bear from one another, what he daily bears from us? Yet this glorious friend and brother, loves us though we treat him thus."

But it's hard living up to the expectations others have of us. Many children are burdened by the expectations of their parents and feel the guilt of not coming up to the mark. Lives can be scarred by failed expectations. Surely God expects too much from us?

God our Father knows that we will continually fall short of all that he calls us to be, yet his calling upon our lives remains undiluted. He calls us to follow Jesus and he supplies us with his Spirit to enable us to follow. And when we fail, he is ready to forgive and to pick us up and set us back upon the path of discipleship. He continues to love us and to cherish us as members of his family. This is the wonder of grace. And we are called to reflect the same spirit in our dealings with one another.

God’s purpose is that we should grow up, grow strong and grow useful in the family of his people. The task of leaders within the church is to encourage such growth through teaching and pastoral care and so to equip each member of the family for the work that God has prepared for them (compare 2:10). But this task is shared by each one of us as we encourage one another so that “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (4:16).

Father, forgive us that we often behave like infants, squabbling with each other and throwing tantrums when we do not get our own way. Help us to grow up and become mature, united and useful in Christ. Help us by your Spirit to live a life worthy of the calling we have received.

Peter Misselbrook