Ephesians 4:1-3- “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (NKJV)
Epehsians 4 is the darling of Christians whom consider “theology” to be a dirty word. After all, it is easier to just cry out in indignation, “Can’t we all just get along!” than to pour over the Scriptures with an open heart looking for God’s answer to all the issues that divide the Church. Sure, some issues are murky because we don’t know everything on this side of eternity, but, some play the “mystery card” every-time we run into a brother or sister who is theologically lazy, misinformed, willfully ignorant, or a participant in a denomination that adheres to tradition contrary to the stuff written in God’s book. There are far more answers in the Bible than questions. Many who claim otherwise thrive on ambiguity just as mold thrives in damp, sunless abodes.
“There are far more answers in the Bible than questions. Many who claim otherwise thrive on ambiguity just as mold thrives in damp sunless abodes.“
In application, Ephesians 4 is a passage that reminds the Southern Baptists, American Baptists, Independent Baptists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ, Evangelical Free, Roman Catholics, and New Testament Churches to remember that we are all under the Lordship of One King.
However, the Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, to…well…the Church in Ephesus. He wrote a letter to one local Church. His letter to the people in that congregation reads: be longsuffering. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Work it out. You have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father. Paul wanted that church to know that whatever their little issues were there was a lot more that united them than divided them. Though Paul’s body was chained up in a distant land, his voice was calling out in desperation from the ink spilled, as a spiritual Father to his children: Be Long-Suffering! His voice still rises from the ink in your Bible. The message is unchanged.
“Though Paul’s body was chained up in a distant land, his voice was calling out in desperation from the ink spilled, as a spiritual Father to his children: Be Longsuffering! His voice still rises from the ink in your Bible. The message is unchanged.“
Paul wouldn’t want people to Church hop. He wouldn’t want them to commute to a Church in a different town. In Paul’s day it would have been inconceivable for a Christian to say to his brothers and sisters,
“I don’t feel anything here for Jesus when I worship around you people, so I’m hopping on my Vespa and riding to another town where I’ll feel something for Jesus around different people.”
It would have been incomprehensible for a guy going to Church in Colossae to quit the Church in Colossae so he could, “go get fed” in the Church of Laodicea. It was a ridiculous notion then; it should be a ridiculous notion now.
If Jesus isn’t enough to compel you to be gentle, longsuffering, and humble with people in one Church, then Jesus won’t be enough to compel you to be gentle, longsuffering, and humble in a different crowd, in a different building, on a different street. Just to be absolutely clear on this, I’m not saying Jesus isn’t enough, I’m saying Jesus isn’t enough for you.
There are 3 reasons to be a quitter and leave your Church:
1. If you believe what is being taught there, you will go to hell.
Should you find yourself sitting in Church listening to a sermon and say to yourself, “if I believe what this guy is saying I’m going to hell because he isn’t preaching Jesus”, and you’ve done everything you can to correct the Church, then yeah, leave. If a Church doesn’t preach Christ crucified for sinners then it’s not really a Church anyway. They have apostated.
2nd Timothy 4:3 says,
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”
But what this also means is that if you leave a Church over t-shirts and guitars (either wanting them or not wanting them) or not getting a staff member, or a building project you wanted, then that’s cool, but you’re sinning, and you’re shallow. You just need to be okay with that, and if that is what you’re aiming for in your life, then so be it. Otherwise, repent, go back to your old Church and prove that forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration aren’t just buzz words among evangelicals, but rather deep running waters from which we all draw refreshment.
2. If they don’t need you. If you’re a pew warmer.
If you look around and say to yourself, “The Bible is being taught, the worship is deep and Biblical, the youth ministry is faithful, the poor are helped, the lonely are fellowshipped, and followers of Jesus are being made”; if every base is covered and you find yourself redundant, then yes, by all means go find a little Church that needs your gifts. The sad thing about many Christians, Christian men especially, is that if they ever found a Church that actually needed them they would never go there! Either because the need would be evident, (which in the mind of a lot of guys translates as: “ha! these people need to get their act together…losers” or, “hey hey hey, I work hard all week, I just want to relax and get fed on Sundays.”), or because many Christians don’t really believe in the priesthood of all believers, i.e. God made you to be doing something in your local Church.
Before you abandon your highly effective assembly, keep it classy: set up a meeting with your friendly neighborhood Elders and discuss your gifts, service, and future.
3. If the Church building burns down, with the Church inside of it.
Be my guest.
Outside of these three scenarios we all need to love Jesus more deeply when we don’t get our way in the local body of Christ. The calling is high. The Lamb is worthy. Jesus did not leave us as orphans. The world is watching. Let “Long-Suffering” permeate your vocabulary and rule your actions.