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…
Wealthy people in the first century hired tutors to play a large role in raising their sons. These tutors would teach them and be responsible for showing them how to conduct themselves around other people. We might say, these tutors taught them manners. Paul refers to this practice in one of his letters (Gal 4:1-2).
This would certainly have been true for the wealthiest and most powerful men living at that time. A king, for example, would hire the best tutors available to raise up his sons and prepare them for their future roles as kings.
I heard a story recently about such an arrangement. I don’t know if this particular story was true in all of its details, but I am sure that generally speaking, such an account was played out many times in antiquity.
One day a young prince of six years old was being a nuisance. He was acting like a spoiled brat. At a meal, he was rude to those around him and spoke disparagingly about the food the servants brought him to eat. The tutor came up to the boy and rebuked him. He pointed out that the young child was not appreciative of what others were doing for him and that he was making the meal miserable for everyone present. The tutor forbade the boy from continuing to act like he was acting.
It is said that the boy yelled at his tutor. He said, “I will act like I want to act. Do you know who I am? I am the child of the king!” The tutor replied, “That is why you cannot continue with this behavior. Remember who you are. You are the child of the king.”
Clearly, the tutor was correct. The birthright of the young boy placed a responsibility upon him, even if he didn’t realize it. His actions reflected on his father.
It is easy to see a parallel with the believer in Jesus Christ. When a person believes in Christ for eternal life, he becomes a child of God. Our heavenly Father is perfectly holy. We should remember who we are. We should desire that our behavior reflect that reality.
In the Free Grace movement, we recognize that such behavior does not come automatically. Like the boy in the story, we can choose to live in such a way that dishonors our Father. The six-year-old was still a child of the king even though he was not acting like it.
The Scriptures are like our tutor. They remind us of how we are to live in light of who we are. In Eph 4:1-2, Paul tells the believers at Ephesus (and us) that we are “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” Surely that includes how we live individually. Paul will discuss sinful activity that is not worthy of the child of the holy and eternal King (Eph 5:3-4).
But being a child of the King brings additional responsibilities. As a child, we are placed in the church, the body of Christ. In Eph 2:10, we are told that the Lord has created the church and given it work to do. We function as a body of believers. That is also our “calling.” That is who we are.
In Eph 4:1-2, Paul is specifically referring to how we treat each other in the body. We are to be gentle with other believers, loving them, and doing what we can to preserve unity within that body. The young boy in the story did not care how his actions impacted those around him. He had forgotten he had a responsibility towards them.
As believers, we have a responsibility towards the other children of God around us. As believers, we are children of the King. Our fellow believers are as well. The King loved and served them. We need to remember who we are. We need to remember who they are.
All of us hear the story of the six-year-old and rightly conclude that he was a brat. He correctly understood that he was in a privileged position. He incorrectly thought that that privilege gave him permission to do whatever pleased himself.
As believers we are in a privileged position. We have eternal life and can never lose it. But that is not a license to act in a way that displeases our Father. In addition, we shouldn’t be jerks in how we treat others. If we do, we have forgotten who we are and need the Scriptures as a tutor to rebuke us.