As we open chapter 4 of St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, we hear his begging for that community to maintain their unity, something Christians are still struggling to recover.
St. Paul provides five words that are the keys to maintaining unity in verse 2. I'm going to start at the end, because the last word is the most important, love (agape). Everything we must do in love. Before you go, "O, this again", let's see what we have to do in love.
The next word working backwards means "to put up with" or "be patient with." Yes, we have to put up with all of our brothers and sisters. Back up one more word and you find our that you not only have to put up with them but you have to be patient over the long haul. We have to have long-suffering patience. So how can we have this long-suffering patience in love? Here we get to the first two key words from St. Paul.
The second word means mild or gentle. It strikes me, even as I write this, how foreign it is to our culture. We've decided it's wrong to teach it to girls and we never wanted our boys to be gentle, or, meek, or mild. There is no translation of this word that is considered a virtue in our culture. And yet it is what Paul tells that we must be if we are going to be Church.
The first word I saved for last because it also is very foreign to our culture, but is the key to patience in love. The first key word in verse two is translated lowliness or humility. It more specifically means humility of mind.
It all begins by humbling our minds,a willingness to admit what we don't know, a willingness to admit that we may be wrong. How often is our lack of patience rooted in our judgment that the other person isn't doing something correctly, or we judge their opinion stupid because it doesn't conform to ours.
St. Paul begins by begging the people of Ephesus to engage in humiliation of the mind. Then combine that with gentleness. Then we will be able to patiently bear with one another in love.
It is a simple formula, one Bible verse. But no so easy to live.