Terry R. Baughman
“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” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
Paul’s admonition in the New International Version of this passage is rendered, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3 NIV). There is intentional effort to maintain an attitude that promotes unity and peace. Human nature by default tends to look out for selfish interest even at the cost of bringing division in interpersonal relationships. This is reflected in the philosophy, “Look out for number one!” It is a “me first” attitude that prevails in much of society.
A key attitude shift in Christian discipleship is the reorientation of our focus from being so absorbed with our own interests to being considerate of others needs, responding favorably to the entreaty of another, or tolerating the mistreatment some may inflict. To “turn the other cheek” is not a natural human response but a Spirit enabled shift in a Christian’s attitude. When Christians respond with unexpected humility others are introduced to the genuine transformation that occurs in the attitude of a Christ follower.
Everyone has the opportunity to be offended. Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come” (Luke 17:1). Life will always bring situations that compel us to become resentful or bitter. It is always our choice how we will respond in a given situation. It is up to us if we strike out in anger, respond with quiet resentment, or plot revenge for a thoughtless action. Any response that gives in to the temptation to be offended will cause disharmony and further separation between opposing parties.
The first step of discipleship is self denial. Jesus clearly stated, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NIV). It is more than a onetime pledge or an unchallenged commitment. It becomes a daily decision to carry the cross, to put others first, and to follow the subtle prompting of the Spirit of Christ living within us.
Consider the following options when the offenses come:
- Anger ignites violence; Peace promotes unity. Seek consolation rather than vindication. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).
- Pride incites division; Grace brings unity. Strive for mediation. Defensiveness and aggression are reactions of injured pride. Pride brings the displeasure of God; humility will appropriate God’s grace (James 4:6).
- Arrogance initiates aggression; Humility brings unity. Practice toleration in the face of aggression. Vengeance is never satisfied. One thing leads to another and more violence follows. The unexpected response of humility defuses anger, aggression, and retaliation.
Only the gift of humility can settle the savage rage of an offense.“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 NIV). Make every effort to keep an attitude of unity.
“That they may be one as we are” (John 17:11).