We Live What We Believe

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit
through the bond of peace; 
one Body and one Spirit, 
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.
(Ephesians 4:1-6)   

Scripture Study

Paul plunges into describing a type of conduct that might appear to have little in common with the exalted state of being filled with “the fullness of God” (3:19): with all humility.2 The Greek word Paul uses for humility, tapeinophrosyne, comes from phroneō (“to think”) and tapeinos (“low,” “insignificant,” or “poor”). The verb form of this word, tapeinoō (“to make oneself low”) is used by Jesus in his teaching: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Humility was an attitude that the pagan world despised; Christians were the first in the ancient world to regard it as a virtue.3 In Philippians as well, Paul urges humility for the sake of unity, expressed in his exhortation to “regard others as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). He points to the attitude of Jesus, who was willing to become low through his incarnation and the cross, and whom God exalted “because of this” (Phil 2:9).

Paul next recommends gentleness, prautēs, sometimes translated “meekness” (RSV), which does not mean being soft or weak. Aristotle described this virtue as the desired middle ground “between being too angry and never being angry at all.”4 It can have the character of kindliness. When ascribed to someone in authority, it means a reasonable lenience. Gentleness is a virtue of peacemakers, namely, the inner strength not to retaliate when provoked. It enables a person to bring correction in a fraternal manner when it is needed (Gal 6:1; 2 Tim 2:25). Paul speaks of the “gentleness” of Christ (2 Cor 10:1) and includes gentleness among the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23).

The word translated patience literally means “long-tempered.” Many times in the Septuagint (e.g., Exod 34:6; Ps 103:8 [102:8 LXX]) this word is used to depict God as “slow to anger,” that is, someone who has a long fuse. Paul uses this word in describing Christ’s attitude toward him: “I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience” (1 Tim 1:16 NRSV). The book of Proverbs teaches that patience marks a person who is wise (14:29; 16:32; 19:11) and that “those who are slow to anger calm contention” (15:18 NRSV). This peacemaking potential of patience is probably what Paul has in mind, since he links it with bearing with one another through love. This means kindly putting up with people’s faults and idiosyncrasies rather than reacting the way we instinctively feel like reacting. Paul is well aware that relationships even among Christians can be trying and sometimes require extraordinary charity and self-restraint.[1]

 

Reflection

 “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.
St Paul’s foremost plea is that Christians demonstrate their understanding of all that has been given them through Christ’s birth, death and resurrection by living a life “worthy” of their baptismal call.

Since he has said this more than once (1Thessalonians 2:12; Philippians 1:27; Colossians 1:10), it must be something of importance and concern of Paul that we, as believers, live our lives in humility, gentleness, patience and love for all.  

We need to see that our conduct reflects what we believe and understand about the grace freely given by Christ. What we believe about the call itself will manifest itself in the walk we make. Let us ask the Lord each day for the strength and focus to walk in His way – not ours.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

 

2 The JB translates this as “selflessness.”
3 Jews also, to some degree. This precise Greek word is not found in the LXX, but the concept is present (2 Sam 22:28; Ps 25:9; Isa 66:2).
4 William Barclay, Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, 3rd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 158.
[1] Peter S. Williamson, Ephesians, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 108–109.