I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4: 1-3

 

People will be people. This common expression contains a lot of painful truth, for even on our good days, we humans are a challenging and a difficult collection of creatures. We often do things that cause friction to arise among us, and we too frequently seem to focus on the negativity of our interactions and relationships rather than spending our time gazing upon the extraordinary beauty and great wonder that God has given to each of us as His hands shaped us. Even in the body of faith in Christ, we are given to a form of individuality that leads to separation and eventually that distance brings about the isolation that is one of Satan’s greatest weapons against God’s people. Paul has seen all of this, and he understood the dangers that came from going through life on our own, and he also knew the importance of surrendering self to Christ and to each other in the process of living out God’s will for our lives.

 

At the center of the Apostle’s statement here are the powerful words humility and gentleness. These are simple words that convey very large concepts. Humility is perhaps the most striking singular descriptor that one can apply to Jesus. He was God in human form, King and Messiah come; yet, He was also simple, caring, observant of the lowliest of people, and always submissive to the will of the Father. Jesus was able to surrender all comfort, relinquish every ounce of pride, and grant worth and great dignity to people who were unlovely and without value in our earthly system of evaluating people’s place and position. Jesus walked this earth in a humble manner, but even more than that, He lived out His days as humility’s definition. In addition, Jesus’ humility found expression in the gentleness of His touch. He sought to bring about restoration of relationship with God by the way that He engaged with others. His gentleness was expressed even in contentious and difficult situations as Jesus did and said everything with redemption as the objective and healing as the desired outcome.

 

The manner of walking through life that Jesus employed and the humble and gentle way that He went about it are, frankly, beyond the capacity and the capability of almost all people. We certainly don’t function like this in our natural state of being. Yet, we are called by Christ to be like Him in all ways; so, this must include the God-given characteristics of humility and gentleness. These are gifts that Christ will give to us as we seek after them. They come to us as we set aside our own desires and yield to His Spirit. They also grow within us as we seek out others and engage with them in a manner that sets aside our wishes, wants, and preconceived ideas in order to enter into the deep places of their hearts and minds and to walk through the day in observant understanding of who they are and what is important to them. This sort of approach to life does make us vulnerable to hurt and to disappointment, but it also expands our understanding of people and also that of our Lord. As Paul states, humility and gentleness are qualities that lead us into the deep love that Christ has for all people, and they operate together with love as the glue that bonds us together with the sort of strength that stands up to all that the forces of this world can hurl our way.

For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

Mark 3: 35

 

When Jesus says this, He is making a bold statement. These were powerful words in His culture, and they still are today. Our natural families are important. However, Jesus forcefully states that His allegiance and His trust are vested in a different set of people who He now claims and proclaims to be His true family. This is at least somewhat confusing in that God’s word is peppered with comments about honoring our parents and treating our children with respect. So, what do I think Jesus is telling us?

 

It is my understanding that Jesus is saying that the transformation that happens when we accept Him and enter into a relationship with God is total, complete, and absolute. We are new creatures in Christ. This newness includes everything in and about us. No part of our being is left out. Certainly there is old mixed in with the new, but our identity is transformed from that of one who is spiritually dead to that of a person with an eternal soul and a God infused outlook. All of our relationships are framed in a different perspective, and this includes those with our families.

 

Certainly our natural, human families are still important. In fact, according to God’s desire for the way that we enter into relationships, they should gain new priority and renewed elements of love, grace, mercy, and peace making. Yet, in Christ we gain much more. His followers are adopted together into a large and very extended family of faith by and through the deeply profound spiritual bond that is formed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in us individually and among God’s people as we gather. This new family can and should be the place where we go to receive support, encouragement and Godly wisdom. It is also the community that we can join with in seeking to follow God’s will and calling for our lives.