We do well to hear God’s Word in Ephesians 4:2 through the coming weeks. Coming out of a series of lockdowns will be disorienting. Many people are struggling with their general wellbeing. It’s exciting for many and good for all of us that society is becoming more social again, but we will need to be careful……… not so much about the continuing vigilance with the virus (although there is that), but more about showing care for others. We need to be full of caring.
Ephesians 4:2 says “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” This teaching was written to address the need for the Christians in Ephesus to treat one another very well in testing times, as it continues “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
In our times, everybody will do well to be humble and gentle and patient and forbearing. As our society opens up it will take time and certain aspects of good character will be needed to help us flourish again.
We’ve been used to doing our own thing in our own space. We may need to be extra patient as we get used to rubbing up against others. Some will have become more self-centred in a time of isolation. Re-emerging into shared space will be a challenge. Dealing with others’ selfishness will not be straightforward. Dealing with our own selfishness will be a crucial work of the Holy Spirit! Be humble and gentle.
I’ve noticed how people have stronger and perhaps wackier views than I remember before lockdowns. Missing a chat with those who think differently, over a pint or a cup of tea, we may have become more entrenched in certain ideas, which would previously have been challenged, and caused to mellow. It will take time to redevelop the sort of society which helpfully removes our rough edges, and challenges our foolishness. Be patient and forbearing.
There has been such delight in meeting in gardens and going for walks with friends and family members. At the same time we are frustrated not to be exchanging hugs, shaking hands, greeting with a kiss. Patience and self-control are fruits of the Holy Spirit which are needed keenly at present. And it is no coincidence that the New Testament juxtaposes patience and love. For example, ‘Love is patient, Love is kind;’ from one of the best known passages in the Bible. We are being called to negotiate the coming months with love and care in how we express our love.
One of the things I have missed most in these thirteen months is singing hymns and spiritual songs with fellow believers in church. Singing words of praise to the Lord feels like more committed worship than just speaking – ‘to sing is to pray twice’. It feels right towards the Lord, good for the soul and more convincing for others watching for signs of our Christian commitment. Though I am enjoying being back in church, even with restrictions, for me St Luke’s services won’t feel like proper services until we are singing great hymns at the top of our voices. It may not happen for 2 or 3 months, who knows? Be humble and patient.
For some of us, the challenges of the last year have been overwhelming to the point of breaking us. Our vulnerabilities have been tested beyond coping. Our personality has been weakened or changed. For those of us, the resumption of normality might feel like a bridge too far. We need gentleness. Be gentle on yourself and be gentle with others.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” This teaching from the Apostle Paul ought to be in the English ‘road map’!! At least, let it be part of our road map to the new normal.
Yours in Christ,
Canon Rob McLaren, Vicar