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Community–A Call to Live A Worthy Life

by Jon R. Wallace, Keven W. Mannoia, and Kenneth Waters Sr.

The tradition of selecting a university passage, begun in 2007, now serves as a powerful reminder of our Shared Vision 2022—a vision that emphasizes the centrality of Christ and the authority of Scripture in our mission and purpose.

The process knits together members of our community from different parts of the university, all committed to seeking God and hearing, studying, and responding to His Word. The passage serves to guide and inform large events and small-group conversations throughout the year and shapes the environment of our work together. While not required, hundreds of faculty and staff members integrate the passage into their daily routines. Professors discuss it in their classrooms, supervisors lead devotions with it, D-groups base their conversations on it. The selected Scripture enriches our gatherings and becomes a point of reflection and dialogue that brings a thread of harmony, focus, and calling to the APU community.

This year, Ephesians 4 permeates our thinking and life together, especially when framed in the university’s Cornerstone of Community. Paul emphasizes our calling in Christ and gives particular prominence to the relationship between calling and community: “Lead a life worthy of the calling…making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit.” But what is calling?

Calling is confirmed by character (verses 1–2). Paul calls upon individual members of the Church to cultivate a certain kind of character. He points out the inextricable link between outward behavior and heart transformation in forming character, while upholding heart transformation as primary.

Calling is critical for community (verses 3–6). Unity of the Christian community depends on the fulfillment of our calling. They are inseparable. While fulfillment of calling carries personal significance, its impact extends far beyond the individual.

Calling is given by grace (verse 7). People frequently confuse oneness with sameness. But we are not the same, especially when it comes to calling. God has given to each of us a different measure of grace. Not that God has given some people more grace than others. Paul means that grace unfolds itself differently in each of us.

Calling is expressed in conduct (verses 17–19). Paul cares about behavior, and he does not distinguish between public and private actions. He does not compromise on the role of behavior in calling. He allows for no legitimate calling apart from a godly lifestyle.

Calling is anchored in Christ (verses 21–24). Paul says that in Christ, we are called to put away our old selves and become clothed with the new self. Jesus Christ is the example of “true righteousness and holiness.” Fulfillment of our calling requires us to keep our eyes on Christ as the model.

Given these truths, how then do we “live a life worthy of the calling we have received”? Some say they are “called” to be a missionary or “called” to be a teacher. In reality, calling encompasses inner character and an outer lifestyle that transcend the mere tasks and duties of any particular job.

Ephesians 4 should move us beyond measuring our competence compared to others. Becoming increasingly like Christ is the only goal. For students and alumni, it means that mastering skills in the classroom and earning a degree just to spend a life in pursuit of greater competence to earn a bigger paycheck falls flat and fails to satisfy. These activities, apart from a deep character formed in the likeness of Christ, are empty.

Our hope for all APU graduates is that they will go beyond what they know—go beyond competence—and discover what it means to live in a way that is worthy of God’s call, worthy of the deep work of grace. Leading a life worthy of God’s calling means caring less about what we do and more about how and why we do it. Paul longs for us to be godly, competent leaders who foster unity and wholeness as we extend His work in the world.

Often, we place value on our vocation based upon the outcome—how well we perform, how much we give, how impactful we are. But when Paul anchors it in Christ, the value of what we do is no longer based upon the outcome but rather the Caller. What you do is valuable because of the One who called you to do it.

As we anticipate the New Year, we open ourselves to the influence of this passage with the prayer that God will form in us as a community a clearer reflection of Himself as well as a deeper understanding of His call upon each one of us as Kingdom people. Would you join us in this hope? As we embark on this openhearted search, would you embrace the call to be worthy in your own vocation through godly character and competent activities? May God’s grace weave our hearts together in answering His call!

Jon R. Wallace, DBA, is president of Azusa Pacific University. Kevin W. Mannoia, Ph.D., is faculty, staff, and graduate student chaplain. Kenneth Waters Sr., Ph.D., is associate dean of the School of Theology.

Paul emphasizes our calling in Christ and gives particular prominence to the relationship between calling and community: "Lead a life worthy of the calling...making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit."

Originally published in the Winter '13 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).