Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. Ephesians 4:1 - 6 (NLT)
With God, it is always true that before the blessings come there must be a change in attitude and actions. In short, we can never expect to see the hand of God bless our individual lives, or our corporate church fellowship, until there is warmth of spirit towards God and each other.
Paul's words here describe outward actions, but they flow from attitudes within.
Notice the actions Paul wants us to examine -- He wants us to build the body of Christ by being the unified body of Christ.
Everyone who has accepted Christ has been placed in the body of Christ. It's a true saying about that body:
Everyone who belongs to Jesus belongs to
everyone who belongs to Jesus.
We are called by Christ into one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith. We were called into a created unity of the body of believers.
That unity is so important.
Christ did not die so the church could be torn apart; He died so the joy of abundant life would gather His family together around the throne of God in joyful celebration.
What is so unique is that we had nothing to do with it – it was all the grace of God, and He puts us together. And the way He puts us together is in unity.
It’s an old story, but it ties up what I’ve been talking about. In a small, mountainous county-seat town there lived a man who had a really old, worn-out truck. He used the truck to go back and forth to work at the plant on the other side of town.
The truck was so ready for the scrap heap it could hardly climb the hills, but did just fine going down the other side. The man had learned to race down one hill to get a running start to get up the other.
One day he got a late start and was hurrying to work. As he approached Main Street he groaned, because the circus had come to town, and the parade of elephants, joined tail-to-trunk-to-tail was tying up the intersection he needed to cross.
In a split-second he remembered the newspaper ad for the circus said there were 7 elephants; he had already seen 4 pass the intersection between the bank and the hardware, and that meant there were only 3 left.
It was then he got the bright idea that, if he could time it just right, after that seventh elephant, he could zoom through before the clowns followed…and he could make work on time.
So he timed it, gunned the engine and arrived at the intersection just after the 7th elephant cleared the bank….just in time to smash into the eighth elephant the circus had just bought. He wrecked the truck, broke both legs and his collar bone, and the elephant died.
A few weeks after he got out of the hospital he got a bill from the circus for $5 million dollars. He called the circus manager and screamed, hey…I know I owe you for that elephant…but $5 million?
Mister, said the manager, you don’t understand…those elephants were connected tail-to-trunk; when you killed that last elephant you jerked the tails and trunks out of the other seven; they ain’t no good for circus work no more!
Now, we, as the body of Christ are just as connected, but we are not perfect, and we are bound to break that unity. That's why Paul talks about the way we act – so that if the unity is broken, it can be restored.
Many churches have union – and no unity. It’s like two cats with their tails tied together; there is union, but precious little unity.
How do you keep the unity of spirit; and how can you get it back if it's been broken? Paul gives us a road map. The way to keep, or regain unity of spirit in God's local church is with humility, patience and – in some instances – just plain putting up with each other's faults (the Bible word is forbearing).
And you’ve got to wrap it all up in plenty of forgiving love.
Notice one thing – Paul's exhortation here is to keep the unity. It is always much easier to keep things, than to regain lost things.
That’s one of the reasons Paul spends an awful lot of time talking about our words and actions in his letter. Words spoken and actions taken are powerful.
Words, like feathers from a pillow scattered into the wind, are tough to recall.
Words and actions that affect others, good or bad, are like the toothpaste you squeezed onto your brush this morning; they come through a one-way door.
Once they're out, the damage, or healing is set in motion.
Keeping unity means choosing
wise words that help,
kind words that heal,
good words that build.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!