In my 2nd pastorate in Jamaica I thought I was going to be fired during the first Officers’ Board meeting. At that meeting the spokesperson expressed appreciation that I had accepted their call because now they had a Pastor to provide guidance on the completion of their grand Christian Education building.
I told them in as blunt terms as I’ll relate now that I had no knowledge about building construction and had no interest in learning either so if they wanted the building completed they had better hire a building contractor because my ministry focus was building lives through the teaching of God’s Word.
So that we are all on the same page the Church in my topic is not a physical structure but the people of God.
So we have struggled over years and succeeded in remodelling church structures but our greater task now is really building the Church that will worship and work in/through the structures..
In today’s study I want us to examine a passage which I regard as foundational for both the leadership of any Church and the membership at large. If we can really understand some of the implications of this passage and seek to operate as a Church with the passage in mind then significant and positive change will result.
Let us then explore the passage carefully and see what emerges.
The text opens with a general exhortation that highlights individual and corporate characteristics that no Church can overlook. Basically, the exhortation ‘walk worthy’ has to do with how each and every one, and thus how the Church, ought to live and operate.
Please note that in Scripture, the word ‘walk’ has to do with one’s way of life or manner of operating. How then are we to operate, according to the passage.
Well, verse 1 says that we should ‘walk worthy of the calling by which we were called’. Even if we plead ignorance of what that means, v.2 goes on to tell us some things that are implied in that ‘walking worthy’.
The whole passage suggests critical things that every local church ought to take seriously.
I wish to summarize these critical things under two basic headings: Necessary Lifestyle Attributes and Necessary Leadership Ambitions.
Let us explore a few things now under the first heading,
- Necessary Lifestyle Attributes
Paul did well, I believe, in following up his entreaty to walk worthy with a list of attitudinal qualities which are absolutely crucial in Church for unity and fellowship and which are marks of a truly transformed life.
Examine then these necessary lifestyle attributes that we have in our text. Walk worthy of your calling with all
1.1 Humility – an attribute and attitude which the early Greeks and Romans despised as befitting people of importance, and of societal prestige and power. Humility was regarded as a disposition befitting those with a lowly social status. Listen to a representative comment from the ancient world.
Aristotle: “Men are mild towards those who humble themselves before them and do not contradict them, for they seem to recognize that they are inferior. Now those who are inferior are afraid, and no one who is afraid slights another. Even the behaviour of dogs proves that anger ceases towards those who humble themselves, for they do not bite those who sit down.”
This is just one example because the reality is that whether you are reading other Greek writers or Roman ones the negative view of humility emerges and prompted one writer to say, “humility as a virtue is alien to the whole of ancient ethics”.
Yet that which Romans and Greeks despised is recommended as a prized virtue, a necessary attribute for the Christian. What is this necessary attribute?
Humility is seeing and thinking about yourself as God sees you and behaving accordingly. It is the opposite of self-importance based on possessions or position. Humility is looking at self through God’s eyes and that kind of look levels everyone. The lofty [with a superiority complex] will be lovingly brought down to size and the lowly [with an inferiority complex], lovingly lifted up to size.
Humility as a way of thinking about self and behaving with neighbour relies on and results from taking God’s estimate of the self not society’s estimate nor even the self’s estimate.
In an increasingly rank-conscious, position-conscious, status-conscious world and Church this attribute is increasingly necessary if we are to build unity or function well as leaders.
This kind of thinking will be most genuine if and only if it is Spirit-produced.
As the Holy Spirit impresses the truth on our minds that we all have been baptized in and made to drink of the one Spirit then and only then will humility be a characteristic attribute, a way of thinking about self, generally and constantly.
1.2 Gentleness or meekness, another personal attribute that the Greeks and Romans despised, is that respectful (non-bruising) manner in which we relate to others.
This attribute is specifically mentioned in Galatians 5 as part of the fruit that the Spirit bears in the lives of those who are genuinely filled. Again we are talking about that manner of relating to people which characterizes one, generally and constantly.
1.3 Long-suffering, is the next attribute. This, literally, is being ‘long-tempered’, the opposite of being short-tempered or ill-mannered in exchanges with others
It is long-suffering that puts a check on the temptation and tendency to ‘tell dem piece a mi mind’ or get even.
As with gentleness this attribute is also specifically mentioned in Galatians 5 as part of the fruit that the Spirit bears in the lives of those who are genuinely filled. Again we are talking about that manner of operating, when offended or hurt by people which characterizes one, generally and constantly.
By the use of a participle, Paul suggests yet another attribute.
1.4 Tolerance literally ‘being patient with one another’, that is, bearing with the weaknesses the failures the foibles of each other, and the verse adds the crucial ‘in love’, that is, with an inner wholesome attitude wholesome atmosphere and wholesome actions toward neighbour.
Right after the call for those very necessary leadership attributes, virtues, graces, traits in our relationships comes v. 3 which introduces my second major pointto which next time.