All too often as we read the bible and hear the gospel preached we focus on how we can learn to be better individuals. We strive to resist temptation and pray that the Lord would deliver us from evil. But this letter to the Ephesians, as with all the letters of the New Testament, is addressed to a whole community of believers. They have each been individually convicted by the Holy Spirit but also, and just as importantly, they have been called together as a community of faith. Paul begs the whole community to live communally in a manner worthy of that calling. He cites three key virtues that can help maintain the unity of the church community: humility, gentleness and patience. These are the qualities that make it possible for us to make allowances for the faults of others. Paul makes the point that it is by making these allowances for the failings of others that true unity of spirit is possible. Without this unity there is no sense of church. Instead of a temple built out of living stones, (1 Peter 2:5) there is just a pile of rubble. God’s glorious hope for the future is one of harmony and unity among his people, when the Holy Spirit will flow through the community, live in all of us and hold us together in faith and love. (Philippians 1:27 and Revelation 21:3-4)
Ephesians 4:1-6 NLT
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, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.
I have been increasingly aware for some time that perhaps I am not leading a life that is altogether worthy of my calling. This is relevant in two main areas. I could try harder to rid myself of some old, non Christian practices and habits that still linger. And I could do much more to play a more active role in the church community to which I have become attached. My goal is to put my failures in to the context of the whole church. No one person is perfect and neither is any one church. So I will take each of the qualities in today’s passage: humility, gentleness and patience, and try to apply them more in my own life. At the same time, I will look for them and respect them when I find these qualities in the other members of my church fellowship. I will make allowance for the faults of others and hope that in return, they will make allowances for mine. I will seek to find, and encourage others to pursue, a true unity of fellowship at church.
Isaiah 45:11-48:11, Ephesians 4:1-16, Psalms 68:19-35, Proverbs 24:3-4