Tuesday, September 16, 2014

CONNECTED IN UNITY: The Spirit of Unity


“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2)

It is fine to talk about love—we should.  But, our performance demonstrates the reality of our profession.  The church has often been known to affirm love as a principle, but fail to act lovingly as a practice.  Loving activity begins with a loving attitude.  The fruit of connection with others grows from the root of compassion for others.  That is what Paul is getting at in these verses of Ephesians.

He writes from prison, yet is utterly free.  His body may be behind bars, but his spirit soars.  Caesar may be his jail keeper, but God is the one who is Master—it is solely for the cause of Christ, and no real crime, that the Apostle is in a dungeon.  The world might brand him riff-raff, but he knows he is a ruler—that a noble calling belongs to him as a child of the King.  He is called to love God and love the church.  Even in a place where he might have fallen prey to the “woe is me” pity-party, he focuses instead on others.  That is the nature of love.

We are called to connection.  Our call is from God’s Spirit to connect with Christ, as separated sinners are summoned saints.  That connection with Christ places us in community with Christians.  Our lifestyle then is to be an expression of this—“to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”  

How do we do this?

Four legs hold up this banqueting table of love:  humility, gentleness, patience and acceptance.  Paul says the spirit of unity is marked by, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.”  Feast your eyes on these traits.

There is to be an attitude of humility.  We take offense when we perceive some slight against ourselves.  But, if we are about stooping to serve, then we focus on ministry to others rather than magnifying ourselves in a self-serving way.  You can tell if you have a servant’s heart by how you react when someone treats you like one!  Jesus is our model, taking up the basin and towel to wash the filthy feet of His followers though He was King of kings and Lord of lords!

Then, we are called to an attitude of gentleness.  People are fragile.  They need extra care.  This is the spirit of Christ which He expressed this way, A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Matt.12:20a)  If the stem of a plant is bent and bruised, only a gentle touch can nurse it back to health.  Handle it roughly and it will be broken and never bloom again.  If a wick is only smoldering, it demands a gentle breath to reignite it.  Blow too forcefully and it will be blown out and its light extinguished.  This is the delicate side of disciple-making.

Furthermore, we are called to an attitude of patience.  All of us are a work in progress.  None of us are perfect yet.  As we want others to be patient with us, we are to be patient with them.  Some in the church are lovable and it is no chore to show them love.  Others are difficult, and yet that is how we develop love.  Think of them as God’s sandpaper sent to polish us into the beauty of Christ.  Think of that crowd of disciples Christ would mold into Apostles; it was hard to be patient with such.  Yet, he was.  Christ saw Peter as the Rock—not for what he was at the time, but for what he was eventually going to be.

Finally, we are called to an attitude of acceptance.  If a Holy God has accepted someone into His family, then I must accept them as my brother or sister.  Our appeal is to come to Christ, “Just as I am…” as the invitation hymn conveys.  This doesn’t mean all our conduct is acceptable.  The Spirit will continue to confront us lovingly with the need of growing in grace.  But, it means that we are fully accepted in Christ.  It is because of our connection to Him that the Father accepts us.  Thus, we will not always like what a person does, but we can always love them for who they are in Christ.  We may need to even confront them and correct them in a compassionate way.  It is for their good and the good of the Body—and ultimately for the glory of God that we do so!  Yet, I have found that most of my time needs to focus on working on me rather than fixing others—to extract the log from my eye before I try to see how to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye!

Can you imagine the environment of the church where such a spirit of love reigns?  May this be our daily prayer and demonstrable practice—to walk worthy of our calling to be like Christ!

No comments: