As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I suggested that Paul begins to explain how we live out our calling with such down-to-earth realities (humility, gentleness, patience, forbearing) because he knows how much these are needed in everyday Christian community. Paul addresses the real-life needs and challenges of real-life Christians and churches because he speaks out of his pastoral experience.
But there is more going on here. Paul also emphasizes humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearing because these are essential to the unity of God’s people. As you may recall, Ephesians 1 reveals God’s plan for the cosmos: to unite all things in Christ. Chapter 2 shows that God is beginning to do this through the one body of God’s people, namely, the church. A unified, healthy church not only proclaims God’s plan to unite all things in Christ, but also demonstrates that God’s plan is beginning to work. When former enemies are united through Christ, this reveals God’s saving power.
When Paul speaks of church unity, he’s not envisioning some fuzzy, ethereal, other-worldly connection of individual Christians. And he’s not just making a profound theological point. Rather, Paul is speaking of a theological reality made flesh in real, live, embodied Christian communities. Christian unity isn’t just an ideal or a principle. And it isn’t just global or denominational. Rather, it’s a day-to-day, matter-of-fact reality that needs to be embodied in actual Christian assemblies.
This kind of unity will be realized if and only if Christians live out their calling with humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. It will happen only when we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Lack of humility will fracture Christian community, as will harshness, impatience, and demanding that others live by our own personal preferences. So, Paul begins with what is required for Christian unity because he places such a high value on incarnational unity among actual Christians.
Finally, though Ephesians 4:1-3 addresses the specific case of relationships in the church, the virtues of this passage are relevant also to our workplaces. Humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearing are Christ-like qualities that we can and should demonstrate each day, with our workmates and classmates, with our bosses and our subordinates, with those who serve us in the marketplace and those who live next door. The more we put on the way of Christ, the more people in our world will be drawn to his grace.
Something to Think About:
How much do you care about the unity of your church?
If you care a lot, why? If not, why not?
In what ways do you contribute to the unity of your church? In what ways might your behavior lead to disunity?
How do you demonstrate the grace of Christ in your work relationships?
Something to Do:
Today, as you go about your work, no matter what your work might be, think about how Christ might be at work through you. Do as Christ leads, through the Holy Spirit.
Gracious God, Ephesians 4 reminds us that church unity is a matter of daily living. It requires the very un-grandiose and un-massive commitment to humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance in our day to day relationships.
Help me, Lord, to contribute to the unity of your church through my everyday behavior. May I truly be humble and gentle. May I exercise patience with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me to put up with them as they put up with me, so that our fellowship might reflect our unity in Christ. May I help your people to be truly one, so that we might demonstrate to the world the effectiveness of your plan to unite all things through Christ and through his church. Amen.