I’ve been wanting to share this Bible Study with the guys in max at Santa Clara main jail. They’ve been on lockdown the past two weeks that I’ve been there and finally I shared it tonight — and they went on lockdown halfway through the study.
Remember that Paul was in prison when he wrote this:
Ephesians 4:1-5 (NIV)
4 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
Paul, as an inmate, is asking other inmates and those outside the walls to walk with humbleness and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love. Do you suppose he meant us to have this attitude just towards other believers, or to everyone?
What if someone is being a real jerk towards you?
Remember that Paul was raised and trained in reading the scriptures, which at that time consisted of the Old Testament. Let’s look at a scripture he would have studied:
Isaiah 11 (NKJV)
11 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
6 “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
Regarding that scripture, in his book The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen wrote:
“There is within you a lamb and a lion. Spiritual maturity is the ability to let lamb and lion lie down together. Your lion is your adult, aggressive self. It is your initiative-taking and decision-making self. But there is also your fearful, vulnerable lamb, the part of you that needs affection, support, affirmation, and nurturing.
When you heed only your lion, you will find yourself overextended and exhausted. When you take notice only of your lamb you will easily become a victim of your need for other people’s attention. The art of spiritual living is to fully claim both your lion and your lamb. Then you can act assertively without denying your own needs. And you can ask for affection and care without betraying your talent to offer leadership.
Developing your identity as a child of God in no way means giving up your responsibilities. Likewise, claiming your adult self in no way means that you cannot become increasingly a child of God. In fact, the opposite is true. The more you can feel safe as a child of God, the freer you will be to claim your mission in the world as a responsible human being. And the more you claim that you have a unique task to fulfill for God, the more open you will be to letting your deepest need be met.”
Looking back at the scripture in Ephesians is Paul asking us to deny the lion part of who we are and only let the lamb show through?
Actually, it takes the strength of the lion, the wolf, the leopard, or the bear to do what is being asked in Ephesians.
Humility requires courage and honesty. Christian humility comes from self-knowledge. To face oneself is the most humiliating thing in the world, particularly as we compare ourselves to God’s standards.
So long as we compare ourselves with second bests, we come out of the comparison well. However, when we compare ourselves with perfection we see our failure. A girl may think herself a very fine pianist until she hears one of the world’s outstanding performers. A man may think himself a good golfer until he sees one of the world’s masters in action.
Self-satisfaction depends on the standard with which we compare ourselves. If we compare ourselves with our neighbor, we may well emerge very satisfactorily from the comparison. But the Christian standard is Jesus Christ and the demands of God’s perfection–and against that standard there is no room for pride. We are creatures, and for the creature there can be nothing but humility in the presence of the creator. Christian humility is based on the sight of self, the vision of Christ, and the realization of God. Courage is needed to face this humility.
Gentleness: The man who shows this type of gentleness is the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time. To put that in another way, the man who is gentle is the man who is kindled by indignation at the wrongs and the sufferings of others, but is never moved to anger by the wrongs and the insults he himself has to bear.
In order to do this we have to remind ourselves who we belong to. Does our value come from who God says we are, and our identity in Christ, or does our value come from what other people think of us? If our identity, value, and worth is from God, then other people cannot take that away from us.
I was talking with another chaplain a few weeks ago. He had been talking to the men for several weeks about changing their attitude towards others when someone does something wrong to them or treats them with disrespect.
Recently one of the men was waiting in line to get into the wash room. The guy in front of him farted and then turned to him and said, “Did you like it?” The man said that, in the past he would have started punching the guy for disrespecting him, but know he was able to set that aside because he wasn’t trying to get his value and self-worth from that other man.
Patience: It describes the spirit which will never give in and which, because it endures to the end, will reap the reward. In their great days the Romans were unconquerable; they might lose a battle, they might even lose a campaign, but they could not conceive of losing a war. In the greatest disaster it never occurred to them to admit defeat. Christian patience is the spirit which never admits defeat, which will not be broken by any misfortune or suffering, by any disappointment or discouragement, but which persists to the end.
Another aspect of patience is used to describe something which has the power to take revenge but never does so. To take a very imperfect analogy–it is often possible to see a puppy and a very large dog together. The puppy yaps at the big dog, worries him, bites him, and all the time the big dog, who could annihilate the puppy with one snap of his teeth, bears the puppy with a forbearing dignity. This type of patience is the spirit which bears insult and injury without bitterness and without complaint. It is the spirit which can suffer unpleasant people with graciousness and fools without irritation.
Love: If we regard a person with this type of love, it means that nothing that he can do will make us seek anything but his highest good. Though he injures us and insults us, we will never feel anything but kindness towards him. That quite clearly means that this Christian love is not an emotional thing. This love is not only of the emotions, but also of the will. It is the ability to hold onto good will to the unlovable, towards those who do not love us, and even towards those whom we do not like. This love is that quality of mind and heart which compels a Christian never to feel any bitterness, never to feel any desire for revenge, but always to seek the highest good of every person no matter what he may be.
When humbleness, gentleness, patience, and love are in place, peace is the natural outcome.