Jump Start # 2393
Ephesians 4:3 “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”
Our verse today brings two wonderful words that are like beautiful strands of music to those who love God. The words are unity and peace. Both of those words imply interaction and relationship with others. Paul was longing for the Ephesian church to have both unity and peace.
It might seem odd to have both words, unity and peace together. At first, one may think that one of these words is enough. To have one is to have the other. But that isn’t a necessary assumption. Is it possible to have unity without peace? Sure. One can be pressured or forced to get along but they don’t want to. Maybe one has been strong-armed into something that they would rather not be involved with, but there was no other way out. There is unity, because they are going along, but there isn’t peace, because they are unhappy and felt pressured into this deal.
Paul’s words are not about buying a car, countries signing treaties, or negotiating in real estate. He is not even talking about differing faiths coming together. Such didn’t exist in the first century, other than pagan and Christianity. He is not talking about a couple of congregations getting along with each other. His words are directed towards one congregation, the Ephesians. His thoughts are about what takes place within a congregation. Unity and peace bring times of encouragement, growth and joyous worship. When these two words are missing, tension, suspicion, and doubt fill the air. The opposite of unity is division. The opposite of peace is war. And when that is the spirit among some, troublesome times are ahead of them. Gossip flies. Thinking the worst becomes common. Whispers, finger pointing, judgmental spirits and grabbing for power are common when unity and peace are missing.
Paul reminds us of several things here:
First, this is something that we are to be diligent about. Diligent simply means get at it. Make it a priority. Work at it. Unity doesn’t just happen. It’s hard in a marriage and it’s hard in a congregation. What makes it so hard is each of us. We all have an opinion and we love ours the best. And when we think things ought to be a certain way and it’s not, then we begin to get bothered, bossy and complaining.
Satan would love to splinter a church. Get each other mad at one another and we take our attention off of Christ and the work we ought to be doing. So, we have to be about preserving that unity. We have to work hard at that. Here are a few thoughts:
- Don’t be so sensitive when it comes to yourself. Someone says something the wrong way and some of us are ready to arm the missiles and declare war. Don’t be that way. So you don’t get invited to something. You can use that to help Satan make things messy and ugly or you can be a big person and don’t let it eat at you. Someone walks by you and they don’t stop and speak or shake your hand. You can leave in a huff, jump on Facebook and declare that the church is unfriendly and not like Jesus. Or, you can give the guy a benefit of the doubt that maybe he was focused on something else and just didn’t see you.
I have folks tell me, much too often, that they see me out and about driving and they will wave but I didn’t wave back. Often my mind is in a sermon somewhere and I just didn’t see them. Don’t where your feelings on your sleeve.
- Don’t always talk about yourself. That gets a bit tiring to others. Let others talk. I’ve been watching this lately. Sometimes I’ll go to lunch by myself. Often there will be a table of four seated near me. They are all co-workers. Sometimes it’s women and sometimes it men. But every time, I notice that one person at the table does most of the talking. They are loud and they control the conversation. They don’t let others hardly say anything. I’m just sitting nearby and it wears me out. Unity is about others, not just you. To be united, you have to connect with others.
- Sometimes things have strained the unity. Hurt feelings. Someone feeling left out. Someone feeling neglected. Preserve it. Be diligent to preserve it. Be the first to connect. Be the first to apologize. Accept, appreciate and love one another. It’s a lot easier to strain and break unity than it is to preserve it. Sometimes we have to swallow our pride.
- There is a difference between union and unity. I heard someone explain it this way once. Union is tying the tails of two cats together. They are together, but they don’t want to be. Unity is when we want to be together. We enjoy each other’s company and fellowship. We express it. We pray for it. We help each other.
Satan would love to bust us up. He loves division. He loves brethren who can’t stand each other. And, he’s done a good job with that through the years. The number of congregations that have broken off of others simply because folks couldn’t get along is off the charts. We’d rather worship in our front room with five people than buckle down and do what God wants us to do to get along with others in the congregation. We can fuss and fight about everything.
I’ve learned something recently that has really helped me. There is the battle and then there is the war. The war is getting to Heaven. Nothing should stop us from that and we must win at all costs. Some battles are not worth fighting. So, here is what has helped. We see people doing things. It may bother me, irritate me and I may never ever do that, but can they go to Heaven? If what they are doing will not keep them from Heaven, then I keep quiet about it. Now, if it is something that is going to impact their soul, then I’ll jump in and say something. A person can be odd as a duck and still go to Heaven. They can be weirder than a three-dollar bill, but they can still go to Heaven. When they are doing something that will keep them from Jesus, then I will and I must say something.
I was with a guy a while back and he was talking about painting all the walls of his house black. He wanted to get a black toilet, frig, sink and stove. He wanted everything black. Boy, that sounded dumb to me. It would be like living in a cave. I was about to say something, but then I realized you can go to Heaven with black walls and all black appliances. So, I didn’t say anything. I just smiled.
I know a guy who saved his gall stones after surgery. They were in a jar. He kept them on a shelf. He wanted to know if I wanted to see them. Of course the answer was no. It seemed rather creepy to me. I was about to say something and then I realized, you can have your gall stones in a jar and still go to Heaven. I just smiled and hoped he wouldn’t show them to me.
I’ve seen people clip their finger nails during worship and they just let them lay on the floor. That really bugs me. I don’t feel like saying something, I really feel like screaming at them. But, you can go to Heaven with finger nails on the floor of the church building. It’s a matter of battles and the war.
I think if we backed off trying to run everyone else’s life and put more attention into how we are doing, unity would be a lot easier. There are things that matter. There are a lot of things that do not matter. When you see that, it helps you with getting long with others.