Unity in the Body of Christ
Ephesians 4:1-6 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
When Dale and I first started coming to Powderly Methodist Church we experienced having lay speakers on a regular basis for the first time. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Ironic? I mean, it’s not the pastor so you don’t have to pay as close attention right? I’ll admit that sometimes my mind wandered. I’d think boy is it hot up in the choir loft today and wow, I hope no one heard my stomach growl..I can hear God telling me “Little girl you are mine but sometime you need a whooping!” But then one day it hit me. I had a ring side seat to what God was doing in someone else’s life! I have come to view it as a gift. Not because every sermon is perfect. Nobody hits it out of the park every time. Sometimes I might not even agree with the speaker. But I have found that if I try to see beyond the words being spoken to what God wants me to hear, I can look for what God is doing in this person’s life as they prepare to speak. I try to find one “take-away” – something I can think about in the upcoming week. I can think on how I would have approached the lesson and marvel at how scripture can speak to each of us right where we are at any given time. As time passes I grow to love each of our lay speakers for what they bring to us, their prayers, their thoughts as they wrestle with God about what He wants them to say and praise God for what He does in their lives and in ours as we share.
I am reading a book called The Message of the New Testament by Mark Dever. In his book Mr. Dever suggests that you read the Old Testament with the view that everything points to Jesus. Then read the New Testament to answer the question – did the deliverer that was promised in the old testament come?
The author describes the New Testament as three concentric circles. The circle in the center is Christ. That is the gospels and Acts. Jesus is the new covenant – a covenant is used biblically to make a new relationship. Jesus came to make a new relationship with God’s people because our relationship had been destroyed by sin. So now you have the next circle – as the church spread you read about God’s covenant people and how they are to live out this new relationship. The first letters are to the brand new baby churches that were just trying to figure everything out and then to individuals who have been instrumental in spreading the gospel. Next is the outer circle as the Church grew and spread to the rest of the world.
The book of Ephesians is one of those letters and in the first three chapters we are given a picture of what biblical unity looks like. In today’s scripture, Paul makes the case for unity. Now you and I when we study the bible even today, we may interpret things differently. Meanings seem to change with the perspective of where ever we are right now. Not our core beliefs but the details. At the time this letter was written, the Jews and Gentiles were dealing with coming together as one church so you had Jews “US” who brought their Old Testament laws and traditions that were so ingrained coming together to worship with brand new Christians who came from other faiths and had traditionally been “them”.
Paul makes a case for Christian unity with these two groups. Not that they were expected to agree on each and every little thing. But to remind them that if they were focused on each other and their differences they were not focusing on God.
Paul lists seven ways that unity has already been given by God for the church to walk in.
- There is one body – Christ’s body
- One spirit – the Holy Spirit
- One Hope – Eternal Life
- One Lord – the Triune God
- One Faith – the Christian faith
- One baptism – the baptism of the Holy Spirit into Christ’s body
- One God & Father – The heavenly Father
What do all these things have in common? The unifyer – the work of Christ’s death on the cross ties all these things (and us!) together
Notice – no where does is say we have to agree on everything – that we all have to be the same. Paul just asks that we WALK worthy of our calling.
This week as I prepared my talk, I was thinking about baby Jessica and the well. Do you remember? It was 1987 and it seemed that the entire world was watching and praying. People sent money and prayers and equipment and for 2 days we were all united in the hope of one thing – that that baby would be rescued and be okay. For two days it didn’t matter what your location, your politics, your religion, everyone was united in the hope that this story would have a happy ending. Maybe if we stretch this a little, it gives us a picture of what Christian unity can look like.
All of the people who were involved, from the folks actually present all the way to the ones like me that were glued to their tv sets and praying – all focused on one thing and one thing only – a happy ending, a human life being saved.
People brought different things to the table, some had equipment and knowledge of drilling and geology and all that goes in to safely making a way to Jessica. Some had money to help transport the necessary people and equipment and some could offer food and showers and places to stay and some were there just to share the story with the world as it unfolded. They were not all copycat robots who looked and thought and spoke the same, but their differences paled beside the rescue of one tiny soul and so they used their individual gifts to help each other focus on that and a miracle happened. Jessica McClure was brought out of a deep dark hole into the light. (And I am sure there was a lot of light – photographers flash bulbs and the lights for the video cameras! Wow.)
And then, the whole word rejoiced. We rejoiced.
God’s covenant people, storming heaven with prayers for one thing and then not just waiting for prayers to be answered, became Christ’ hands and feet and saved someone. Paul doesn’t say you have to be a member of this or that denomination, this or that political party, be male or female, rich or poor, just walk united in Christ, coming alongside brothers and sisters in the hope that all will be saved.
In 1st Timothy Paul writes: “ First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
In Galations 3:26-28 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Our Father knows we are different – He knit us together in the womb and He knows we will not all agree all the time. Some of us won’t agree ANY of the time…on some things. But what matters is how we walk this out and this preaches to me.
1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble
1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
it’s not about who we are, it’s about who we are in HIM
It’s not about what we want to do, but it is about what He has done for us
It’s not about what we want out of this life, it’s about what He wants for us in the next
It’s not about who or what we hear on a Sunday morning – it’s about how we live every day until He comes back for us
My challenge to all of us this week is to take that one person that is getting on your last nerve, that hurt you for no reason, that really pushed your buttons…and look at them through the lens of Christ and the sacrifice He made for THEM as well as us. Look at them from the perspective of God desiring all meaning them as well as us to be saved. It’s my prayer that while we still most likely will not agree with them, our perspective will have changed. It can’t hurt, and maybe, just maybe, someone will be saved.