Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling—one Lord, one faith, one baptism,one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
I love these words Paul wrote while he was a prisoner. I picture Paul as the Spirit overcomes him and he writes exhaled words of God as a letter to the Ephesian church. The words found in this letter, though written to people from another time and another place, still strike such heavy meaning thousands of years later in a world seemingly gone mad. Isn’t that the beauty of God’s Word? His words are not bound by space or time. The words He breathed out then are still what we are inhaling today.
I read those words and my mind races just as my heart beats quick. I feel Him. His presence is near. It is not a question or a suggestion, it is eyes locking with mine and He says, “Walk worthy.” Maybe I should feel angst at such a command…but I back up a little and I read through the first three chapters of Ephesians.
This scripture reminds me of my righteousness attained through Christ. I remember his gift of grace and of my new identity in Christ. So I can quickly remove the fear that He is calling me to walk a life of self-sanctification. He is, rather, calling me to walk a life that reflects all that I have received in Him. I can revel in the hope and truth that the first three chapters of Ephesians give. Because He is worthy and my life reflects Him living in me, I can walk worthy. Not a perfect life, but a life that is full of grace and one which strives to bring Him glory. But, what is worthy?
Called to Unity
My eyes travel and these words stand out: humility, gentleness, patience, accepting one another in love. Then this:diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. A call to unity. I cringe.
The struggle is there. A unified body is a great idea and can be found…until you mention your political opinion or until you mention who you voted for last election. Then the beautiful rope of unity begins to unravel and tangle, leaving a mess with knots so tight it has become a useless blob on the floor.
Walk worthy.So there it is again. However, I also see something else: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Did you catch that? Who [God] is above all and through all and through all in all. Does that cause anyone else to catch a breath of relief? There is no fine print, no ifs, ands, or buts, no political figure, no political party. There is nothing but God. HE IS ALL.
So where does that leave us?
As the political comments, remarks, jabs, and opinions become more prevalent each year, let us not forget what we know to be true. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and above all, He is where our identity is found. We can rejoice with our friends, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that our hope and joy is in Him. Our desire is to walk worthy as children called by His name. By this, we will show the world that His Spirit unites us as the body of Christ. Our unity is not through political opinion, party, or affiliation. Don’t hang your hopes on anyone other than the One whose purpose was to come to earth and rescue us through His death and resurrection.
This year, let us seek unity as believers no matter which political box we check. I pray that we will embrace a Christ-like humility, radiate His gentleness, and dwell in His patience. My prayer is that we will accept one another through His love and that we will bediligent to keep the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.
I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.
I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
As Christians, we are commanded to be unified, but sometimes it seems so elusive. Marriages break up, friendships fall apart, congregations split. Over the decades (how am I old enough to say that!?!), I’ve wondered about this idea of unity. As I study the living word and scour the pages of the New Testament to see how Jesus addressed unity, something jumps out at me now more than ever before:
Unity happens through peace, and peace happens through a focus on our Savior.
As followers of Christ, we each have a mission and that is to glorify God with our whole being. To represent Him on this Earth in such a way that others want to know him more. Unity creates this longing. Disunity is repelling. Or in other words:
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. (Mark 3:25 NIV)
Division is Satan’s plan.
So with this clear statement from Jesus, we can guarantee that one of Satan’s main game plans is going to be to try and divide Christ’s believers as much as possible. He will use situations to pluck up our pride, to hold grudges, to assume an ill will from another. He will encourage us to disengage rather than humbly approach each other in grace. Satan will try his hardest to encourage us to put our focus where it doesn’t belong.
Whenever issues arise among believers many immediately fly over to Matthew 18, which is a fantastic passage about the process of how to deal with sin. But not every disagreement is a sin. Sometimes, we just disagree on the importance of an issue or how to be a shining believer in a dark world.
Disagreement doesn’t mean dissociation.
Just because we disagree on these issues doesn’t mean we have to disengage or disassociate from each other and only worship with those who are in fairly close agreement with us. On the contrary, Jesus prayed:
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23 NIV)
His prayer was for complete unity in Him. Just like He and the Father are one, he wants us all to be one in them.
But how can we be united if we believe differently on different topics?
Hmmm…I’ve wondered that so many times. And then one day, it was like Jesus said, “Read the New Testament again,” and so I did. You know what I found? Groups of people believing differently on certain topics, even important ones, but still coming together in study and worship of our Lord.
Unity among different beliefs
Where did I see this crazy unity among people who believe differently? In the temple and the synagogues. Jesus himself worshiped at the temple, attended the feasts, made the sacrifices. His official first day on the job happened in a synagogue. He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah about himself and tried to teach the people what the scriptures truly said about it. The apostles and Paul even continued to teach in the synagogues as was their custom. All sorts of different sects within the children of God worshiped and studied the scriptures together: Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, and the Way (a.k.a. what Christians were called before they were called Christians). Yes, there was much debate, but the idea is that they still came together.
Never once did God or Jesus say disengage from each other. Instead he used their love for God to bring them together under his banner of love and covered their differences with his blood. Jesus called to each one of them, no matter their beliefs, to come and follow him. He didn’t say they had to be right on every single point before the following began. He asked just that they follow, and in the process of following him they would mature and come to a greater understanding.
Can I still worship with someone who thinks differently?
The reality is that Jesus warned the ones who chose to follow him that they would be kicked out of the synagogues. (I was always under the impression that the church was formed to be separate and apart from what already existed. However, the truth of the matter looks very different. Christ expected his followers to continue to influence others who loved God as well and to continue to worship with them.)
All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. (John 16:1-2)
Sometimes, I feel like many of us have lost the ability to patiently let people mature in their spiritual walk. If Jesus can die on the cross with the words “Forgive them for they know not what they do” coming from his lips, surely we can give each other some grace as we encourage each other on this journey together. Yes, we may believe different on some spiritual matters but if we hold to the truth that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, if He is the only way, then by the grace of our patient Lord, He will work on our hearts as we all mature together.
So then what do we do when we find ourselves in a disagreement with each other?
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each otherin the LORD. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The LORD is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:2-9, emphasis added.)
Some of these verses are among my favorites but I had never read them in proper context as a way to deal with disagreements among believers until last week.
These two women who had joyfully served together in the Lord were now at odds. So much so that their dissension hindered their work for the Lord. Paul had to remind them that their focus had fallen from where it should have been. So Paul encouraged them:
This makes me think that some possible back-talking or grumbling was present. Instead, there is a call to gentleness.
Agree in the LORD.
I see this as not agreeing on every point but humbling ourselves and coming back to the fact that we are agreeing to serve the Lord.
Rejoice in the Lord always.
When we lose Christ as our focus, we tend to let pride grow. Putting our focus back where it should be–on Christ–allows us to rejoice in Him and what He has done for us. Humbling ourselves in the situation then becomes easier.
Pray about it and let God guard our hearts and minds.
Justification for our feelings is easy to do, but praying about our hearts and asking for God’s wisdom in the matter will help dissolve those justified feelings.
Focus on what is good and not on what is bothering us about the other person.
Whatever we focus on expands. If we focus on the negative, that’s all we’ll see. But if we focus on their good qualities and their love for Christ, our love for that person becomes stronger.
Can you imagine Satan’s dread when we all come together to fight the true enemy instead of knocking down fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?
For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12 CSB)
Let’s fight the right fight and unite together as one in our Lord and Savior!
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