In his letter to the church in Ephesus the apostle Paul says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).
Now stay awake! Because this verse, right here in Ephesians, is something that exposes exactly what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
If you’re unfamiliar with the bible you may not know that the versions we have today were not originally written in English. I know that sounds crazy for those of us who speak English, especially as this is now the dominant language in the world. Instead, the original manuscripts of the bible were written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. So… Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was originally written in Greek.
Now you may be thinking, “It’s all Greek to me anyway!” And that’s ok! The point here is that the word “worthy” we see in Ephesians 4:1 is actually the Greek word axios.
Why does this matter?
Well, it matters because the word axios has depth to it. In our minds we should get the picture of an old school, two sided, teeter-totter scale. I recently picked one of these scales up from someone who was selling off pieces from an antique store they had just purchased. Balance on this particular kind of scale means equilibrium. Basically what happens is you put on one side of the scale an object of an unknown weight and you measure it against the weight of another object. If you’re a dad just get the picture of you on one side of the teeter-totter against three or four kids on the other side to stay balanced.
What is interesting is that when the two sides of the scale are in perfect weight they are axios—they are worthy. Axios means to have the same weight or value.
Now if your mind isn’t blown yet, just look at what Paul weighs against each other. In Ephesians 4:1 he says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” What has Paul put on the scale? On the one side he puts our walk and on the other side he puts God’s call.
Paul believes that God’s call and our walk are to be balanced. God’s call and our walk are axios—they carry the same weight.
What’s crazy about this idea is that this is exactly how Paul fashions his letter to the Ephesians. Guess how many commands are in the first three chapters of Ephesians? You guessed it. Zero. Paul spends the first half of the letter identifying and exhorting the church’s call. Over and over he speaks of their identity as the Jesus community. No commands. He calls them adopted, chosen, sons and daughters. Then he spends the last three chapters instructing them in how they are to live. First we are called… then we go and walk.
The interesting thing in all of this is that the verse in which the letter takes its turn is Ephesians 4:1. This is the linch pin. “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” Paul uses Ephesians to show us who we are and what we’re called to do and these things should be in balance.
Think of it like this. On June 30, 2007 I stood under a gazebo outside of Sarnia, Ontario and in an instant I became a husband. Did I know anything of what it was like to be a husband? Just ask my wife. I learned about two days in that I knew nothing of what it was like to be a husband. I had to learn. But even more importantly I was a husband and I had to live a life worthy of being a husband.
On July 30, 2008 I stood at St. Joe’s Hospital and after what felt like two days of labour I held my daughter Ava for the first time. In an instant I became a father. Did I know anything of what it was like to be a father? Trust me. I learned that first week that I didn’t know much about being a father. I was a father and I had to live a life worthy of being a father.
This is what Paul is saying about what it means to be a disciple. You are worthy, so live a life that is worthy. The gospel is this epic news that we don’t have to climb a ladder to get to God. He came to us! We are called and then we walk. These things are to work together to balance the scale and above anything else this is what it means to be mature: when God’s call and my walk are in balance.
Is it just me or is it really easy for things to be out of balance? A lot of people believe being a disciple is all about God’s call. It’s all up to Him. I often hear things like God is “meticulously sovereign” or “He is in control!” These statements are made out as though God is going to do everything whether we like it or not. The problem with this is that it appears in the narrative of scripture that God has always been looking for cooperative participants. When we think God’s call is the only thing that matters then the scale is out of balance.
The problem is that just as much as we can be guilty for thinking God’s call is the only thing that matters there is the opposite dysfunction in thinking that all that matters is our walk. A lot of people, especially millennials, have convinced themselves that if we just do more good than everything will get better. It’s almost like we are trying to bring shalom and the kingdom without the King and His call. The scale is out of balance.
What we need is axios—the balancing of God’s call and our walk. This is what it means to be mature.
My spiritual hero Eugene Peterson puts it best when he says, “When our walking and God’s calling are in balance, we are whole; we are living maturely, living responsively to God’s calling, living congruent with the way God callus into being. Axios, worthy—mature, healthy, robust… When God’s calling and our walking fit, we are growing up in Christ. God calls; we walk.”
So… Are the scales balanced?
(This illustration and quote was taken from Eugene Peterson’s Practicing Resurrection p. 31-32)