The first time I stepped on a skateboard as a teenager was also the last time I stepped on a skateboard. It looked easy. Why would I need any instructions? But apparently, stepping on the tail, lands a novice on her tail. Painfully. Even though it has been years since the abrupt ending to my teeter-totter adventure, I am still learning the practical importance of balance. It is a life long adventure.
Paul has moved from the fulcrum, the pivot point of urging us to balance our walk in Ephesians 4:1 (see A Question of Balance), onto the arm of practical application. In the rest of the letter he enumerates specific ways we apply the force of conduct to balance the load of our calling. Thank you, Archimedes for this analogy of the lever.
All too often we believe conduct is a list of dos and don’ts, so we keep a check list for ourselves and others. Paul does the opposite. He doesn’t begin with activities to check off, he begins with attitudes we must adopt. Even now as we move into the practical application half of Ephesians, we are looking at the heart.
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. Ephesians 4:2-3
Having a heart of lowliness.
The Greek word that is often translated “humble”, comes from the word “low” and “a moderation of regulated inner perspective”. This is the self restraint that comes by comparing myself only to the Lord, aligning myself to His thinking, and depending totally on Him. This is not putting my self down, but lifting Jesus and others up.
Having a heart of gentleness.
Gentleness is not weakness; rather it is power that is restrained. As a prisoner of the Lord, Paul has power that is restrained. Both the power AND the restraint come from the Lord. So it is a heart attitude of believing that God is in control, and that I can rest in letting Him work.
Having a heart of patience.
This particular word for patience is a combination of “long” and “outburst of passion”. Long tempered, long fused, long in getting heated up. I may think I need patience in order to be humble and gentle towards the crazy people the Lord has allowed in my life…but…this word is used often of the heart God has…towards ME! I am one of those crazy people to someone, AND I am one of those crazy people to Him. So why is it so difficult for me to have a long, long fuse for others/
Having a heart of forbearance.
This is NOT the heart that says, “How long do I have to put up with this?” Forbearance is bearing FOR someone. It is the heart that says in complete sincerity, “I am for you. I am not against you.”
Having a heart of diligence.
Paul says we are to make every effort to apply force to the arm of our conduct. We are to do our very best. This is not trying to earn God’s favor, but a reminder of the lesson he wrote about in Ephesians 2:8-10 that we are working out what God has already worked in us. Dallas Willard phrases it beautifully in The Spirit of the Disciplines, when he writes that grace is not opposed to effort, grace is opposed to earning.
I do not have to think long, or look far, to understand why Paul would emphasize heart attitudes before he tells us how to walk. I know as a parent, that if I have my children’s hearts, I will have their actions. I know that building relationships with them comes before applying correction to them. That creating a desire in them will govern what comes out of them.
And I am a child…a child of God. Does He have my heart?
Part 12 of “Echoes of Encouragement from Ephesians.” See Also: A Question of Balance