Ben Hays,  Reach Houston Strategist, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention

Ben Hays,  Reach Houston Strategist, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention

Saturday, unity in the church

Ephesians 4:1-3

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“ I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner 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 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

The Apostle Paul, self-described here as a “prisoner for the Lord,” writes to spur on the church in Ephesus on towards unity in Christ.  In the first verse, he challenges believers to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.  In other words, he urges them to live like a Christian, one who bears the name of Jesus (Acts 11:26).  But what does that look like?  What qualities would one need to live out in order to walk worthy?  He goes on in verse two to describe just that.  Humility, gentleness, patients, forbearance, love, and unity.  These are the hallmarks of Christ-like living. 

Recall that Jesus prayed that his Church would be recognized and find it’s relevance in their love for one another and their unity with one another (John 17).  A tangible, visible, experiential sort of unified love is what Jesus desires for the churches in Houston.   Our goal in the way that we relate to one another in the church is to “maintain unity in the bond of peace.”   Strong words!

This gets very difficult for church leaders to live out in the moments where we have been hurt by those who are supposed to be working with us, not against us.  I’ve never met a church planter who has not felt abandoned, betrayed, or opposed by a fellow believer in their church.  It is inevitable.  Even Jesus had a Judas! If you have not had a few scrapes, bruises, and scars left by others on the road to church planting, you will.  No one gets out unscathed.  I can testify to that!  

However, Paul’s words to the Ephesians still stand.  Notice that Paul did not qualify his admonition.  He did not say “maintain unity and peace if… people deserve it…people treat you well… people are on your side… people appreciate you.”   There were no ifs or conditions to his words.  Our calling as church leaders is to pursue unity and peace even when people hurt us.  And it takes a lot of gentleness, humility, patience, and so forth to walk in a worthy manner of the Lord in such situations.  

Why is this essential to our mission?  Because we are spokespersons for the Gospel!  The Gospel grants forgiveness.  The Gospel loves unconditionally.  The Gospel reconciles. The Gospel restores.  How is the world to know the love and power of the Gospel if those who preach it cannot apply its implications to those around them? 

Prayer

Father, reveal to me today the places in my heart where I am holding bitterness, unforgiveness, or malice toward another believer.   Remind me of the power of the Gospel in my own life today.  Thank you for your forgiveness and love.   Help me to fully forgive those who hurt me and to strive for unity in the bond of peace.  Teach me to walk in a manner worthy of my calling.