Every pastor, and really every follower of Christ, has a go-to Scripture passage. A passage that defines who they are and centers them in their faith in God. Call it a “life passage,” “calling verse,” or anything else, but the purpose still remains. They are words and phrases they help to give clarity to our lives.
For me, one of those passages – I tend to call them calling verses – is found in Ephesians 4:1. Paul is writing to the church in Ephesus and has just prayed for them, when he offers them a challenging word of encouragement.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (NIV)
I remember the first time that passage really struck a nerve with me.
It was when I was living in North Carolina and wrestling with my calling as a follower of Christ. I knew Christ was calling me to a new way of vocational life, but I was struggling with the idea of whether it was to be a pastor or to do something else. I can remember reading this passage as part of those conversations and being hit with the weight of this life.
I’m not speaking of the pastoral life. I’m thinking of the life of following Christ with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Our lives are to be lived in response to the life of Christ by honoring the love and grace of our Lord with our very words, actions, and deeds.
That has become harder and harder today. We are defined by conversations that often turn towards the visceral that prevent finding common ground and purpose. We see people arguing about every little thing on television. This influences how we live and build community with one another.
At the same time, we can easily run into belief that faith is a “Sunday morning only” responsibility. We give our one hour in worship, give a little here or there, but are reluctant to allow our faith to influence how we live and interact with one another come Monday morning.
That is now how Christ invites us to live in response to God’s love for us. Our entire life is to be lived in response to God’s holy love. What does that look like?
First, it means we are called to love one another. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other on everything. What it means is we are called to share the same love with the people we disagree with that Christ has shared with us. We are called to look across the table at someone and remember that they are a child of God and a person of sacred worth.
Second, it means we have to be mindful of our actions. Our words and actions must be in reflection to the life of Christ. A good way to reflect upon this is by asking ourselves this question: Would Jesus say this? In our online conversations ask yourself this: Would Jesus post this? What we say matters. What we do matters.
Third, we must strive to live into the words of Paul to be “patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2, NIV) To be patient doesn’t simply mean you don’t lose your cool at Wal-Mart if the line takes forever. It means, more specifically, that we are willing to lift up someone’s burdens as our own. We do this out of an act of love for one another.
When we take to heart the words of Ephesians 4:1, then we will see that this life is more than just about showing up. It is about surrendering our entire life, our very identity, to Jesus’ desires for us.
The global church, today, would be in a better situation if we took to heart that we are called to reflect Christ. We would be, once again, a movement and not an institution. We would be the people of God filled with God’s holy love.
If we can do this, we would inspire a generation to take on the life of Christ, because they see the life of Christ flowing through us.