Jump Start # 3164
Ephesians 4:3 “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
There are things in life that we do not like to admit. Not being open, transparent and upfront about things has led to the necessity of checking car reports when buying a used car and home inspections when purchasing a house. We can create images that are often not reality. The perfect marriage. The perfect family. The perfect home. The perfect yard. I saw a guy years ago at a Kansas City funeral home spray painting the yard green. I wondered how it had such a bright green look in November. It was fake. It was paint. Reality reminds us that the image presented often deludes and deceives.
And, when it comes to our congregations, an image is often created but it cannot be sustained. One of the things that we do not like to admit is that our fellowship is splintered, divided and rarely does one part have anything to do with the other parts. Churches have split over doctrinal differences and personality clashes. And, once divided, the one part will have nothing to do with the other part. Young people grow up only knowing that the other group is wrong and that they should stay completely away from them, as if they had leprosy. A broken and divided fellowship is nothing to brag about, be proud about or even to be indifferent about.
Our verse today is not directed toward the brotherhood. It’s addressed to the Ephesian congregation, where absolute unity takes place. The apostle outlines three steps to a unified church.
First, there is a walk that we all have to walk. That’s how the chapter begins. We are “entreated” to walk in a manner worthy of the calling. Walk a specific way. Now, immediately, when this is not done, unity gets strained. Our fellowship is built around us all walking in the light (1 John 1:7). When some of us do not do that, then unity will not be possible.
Second, there is an attitude that we are all to manifest. The apostle writes, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Those key expressions, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, love—are attitudes. God expects us to have those attitudes. And those words are expressed in how we treat and interact with others. Are we gentle? Are we patient? Do we forbear? Are we humble? The wrong steps and the wrong attitudes will keep any unity from taking place. A person can tie the tail of two cats together, but they don’t want to be like that. One can say that they are joined, but it’s not a unity and it’s certainly not a happy occasion. There can be no olive braches extended and no open discussions when a person doesn’t want anything to do with the other one.
Third, there is a motive or drive that God expects us to display. Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, is what the third verse, our verse today, states. Diligence—doing things now. Getting right to it. Preserving—doing all that you can to sustain and keep the unity alive. I sometimes feel that some are more diligent at breaking unity than preserving it.
Three vital steps for unity within the Ephesian church. A person cannot pick just one of the three. All of them are necessary. And, without any of them, unity is nearly impossible.
Will this work on a brotherhood scale? Is it possible for all of us everywhere to be united? Unity and fellowship are not the same. Congregations do not fellowship one another. We are told to love the brotherhood, but that’s about it. Unity is personal. Unity involves individuals. Differences in spirit, attitude and practices causes some to pull back and withdrawal the hand of friendship and fellowship. I must agree with the way I believe we are to worship the Lord. That’s going to be maintained on the congregational level.
But I do believe some steps could be made to build a bridge with others. We have more in common than we have differences. I have a friend who works among the premillennial segment of churches of Christ. Our friendship revolves first around the restoration movement. We have built a friendship. He has heard me preach. We have our differences and we could accent those to the point that we never talk to each other. But I think we both have a genuine spirit that we want to move closer to one another and not further apart. I try to understand him and he tries to understand me.
What are things that practically could be done:
First, get to know brethren in the area that you may not align with doctrinally. Visit their singings and special meetings and invite them to yours. There is an old saying, “Don’t take down a fence until you know why it was put up.” There is some truth to that. Compromising convictions, closing your eye to doctrinal teachings is not and never will be a solution. Don’t go in with guns blazing and looking for a fight. Take the chips off your shoulder. We can learn a lot from others.
Second, keeping the spirit of Christ about us is essential to all conversations. One can disagree and still be friends. One can learn from others. One can try to show others why he remains where he is. Stop using terms, labels and names that are insulting and hurtful. Rather than healing, we pick the scabs off when that is done and the wounds never heal.
Third, we must remember that the working hub of New Testament activity is through the congregation. A brotherhood machinery never works. It’s without Biblical example and it usually ends up corrupt and mismanaged. The muscle of the N.T. is the congregation. That’s where unity is a must. That’s where our energy is put forth. Trying to tie all the churches together is not a good idea. Yet, maybe it’s time to stop considering those we disagree with as our enemies.
Unity—it’s hard. Politically, racially, spiritually. The Devil loves a divided world, a divided nation, a divided church and a divided heart. He’ll push differences. We must try to tie together what we can.