Where to Begin When You Don't Know Where to Begin
In Ephesians 4: 1-3 (NLT), The Apostle Paul says: Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
Always be humble and gentle.
No individual, no culture group, no gender, no pastor, no elder is excluded when it comes to this admonition. I’m sorry. I actually wish that wasn’t true, particularly when you and I have been in situations when we have been sinned against when we have been the victim of an act. When we have been the recipient of an unusually unkind word or deed. And yet, here it is, right here in the Word of God, the text of our lives. Freedom comes in asking better questions.
The question in this situation is not, “God, do I have to be humble and gentle when I feel like someone has sinned against me pertaining to my race?” A better question may be, “God, I feel angry, hurt, and confused. Can you please show me how to embody humility and gentleness in this situation? Sometimes you are actually the one who needs it for yourself. Other times, Jesus invites us to give this grace to others. We always get a choice, however, whether that comes today or later on the continuum of our life journey.
Be patient and make allowances.
This is my favorite part of this verse. Paul doesn’t randomly suggest that we do these things. He gives us a reason. It’s because of our love. You see, when we are hurt, tired, and confused with one more conversation about ethnicity, color, privilege, lack – this list is eternal – we can have a moment where we forget who we are and who our God is and settle back into the remnants and residue of an old life. Be patient? When has someone told me that I am a racist? Yes, because of your love. Make allowances … again? When situations reveal again how I am not represented or included? Yes, because of your love. If we could get a moment to breathe when we feel anger, that is oftentimes righteous, and remember that the same grace was and is offered on our behalf us we gain perspective. God is patient with us. God makes allowances for our faults. Can you even pause now and remember even just one time where God lavished these things on you and showed you a model of how you can love others? Yes, it is always the answer to that question. He is so good to us. He has modeled to us already what this looks like. It is by His power, by His Spirit, and by His Word, the text of our lives, that any of us are even capable of doing what Ephesians 4 has asked of us. Lean into the discomfort of patience and make allowances. You will find Him there with a provision of Grace for the moment.
Make every effort.
Paul gives us a question for every situation in our lives. Have I made every effort to keep the unity? Have I made every effort to make someone feel welcome? Have we made every effort to make sure that when people walk into our church and see pictures on the wall that they are represented? Have we made every effort through the training of our staff, leadership team, worship team, volunteer influencers to prepare them for a shift in the ethnic culture of our church? Have I made every effort as a leader to pursue what Christ has asked me to in the local church – every tribe, every nation, every people, every language – worshipping around the Lamb? Tough question to answer, right? Have I made every effort in the area of multicultural work and ministry?
Now, before you go and decide to give up ministry work for life, let me give you a virtual hug and share a critical perspective with you.
The admonitions in Ephesians 4 are meant to encourage you, not trap you. They are meant to give you a provision into what is possible for your ministry and your ministry reach.
Want to reach the nations? Start with your local congregation by making every effort towards unity. Want to see your worship team or pastoral team be more ethnically diverse? Always be humble and gentle when you connect with people, when you talk about politics, and when you discuss current events that are racially fueled. Always, means always. Want to see a church community that is more concerned with learning about one another, celebrating cultural come-from and learning? Then make allowances for each other faults because of your love for each other and your love for Christ.
Make. Every. Effort.
Don’t. Give. Up.
Let the residue of an old life and old ministry ways stay where they belong - in the past. Embrace the way of Christ in the work of multicultural worship and ministry. You are stronger than you think.