The choice of today’s Scripture has been inspired by our Presbytery meeting yesterday. It is inspired by this meeting because in some there hours of discussion and debate, there was a pervading sweetness, a mutual respect, and a real sense of everyone seeking to preserve the “bond of peace.” The conversation and discussion was earnest. Yet, it was unifying and peace-promoting.
Our passage reminds me of two other things yesterday.
A young man fresh out of seminary gave a wonderful short message on Psalm 133, which in many ways is an Old Covenant way of saying a similar thing as today’s Scripture says. I will paste that Psalm at the bottom. You’ll see the connection.
The other thing is that we approved licensesure for that same young man for the ministry of the preaching of the word. As part of that licensesure he had to take a vow “to promote the unity, peace, purity, and prosperity of the Church.”
These four attributes which he and the members of our churches are to promote are utterly interrelated and intertwined; they cannot be understood apart from the other; they are impossible to fulfill apart from the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit; and they are pretty systematically ignored across evangelicalism in general.
Here is the “one another” passage from Ephesians, Ephesians 4:1-3:
1 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.
We should think of this exhortation as having to do both with local churches as well as with relations between local churches, and reaching into the church gathered across the world. Mostly it finds its tangible living reality in local churches, and between local churches.
So much had happened in our own community of Greensboro over several decades to break down the unity of the Spirit between churches. There have been conflicts between brethren and churches never resolved, and which fester. People hop from church to church leaving bad will and hard feelings in their wake, not having gone through any sort of submitted counsel with their churches before disappearing to greener pastures, perhaps with an e-mail note after the fact. Churches communicate poorly between each other. Church A treats Church B with much little less than Christian respect and charity. She considers her own ministry or preaching or programs to be superior, and thus rejoices when people flee into her awaiting arms. It’s an “arms” race of sorts, people flying in all directions.
This all applies within churches as well. We have all seen or heard of churches that have been soured by a failure of its leaders or its people to promote the unity, peace, purity, and prosperity of the congregation. When this happens it disgraces the name of Christ before the watching world, and it creates little divisions between people and churches that last into future generations. I know of churches that are still reeling from conflicts thirty years or more ago. A lot is at stake (John 13:34; John 17: 20). How we go about things is a huge barometer of who we really are as we talk about being God’s people.
And so, we are to walk in humility and gentleness, with patience and loving forbearance, and an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
I am struck by the word “eagerness” here. You can picture an eager child looking into the ice cream store window, an eager linebacker twitching, ready to blitz the quarterback, an eager hiker racing to the top of the mountain, an eager dog waiting for you to throw the stick. Eagerness suggests anticipation, even, impatience perhaps, but one can imagine eagerness without impatience. As regards the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace it means that we are to be extremely sensitive to the unity of the body in the Spirit and to the peace of the church. We should do all things with this in mind, and be very sensitive (eager) to that which may harm or hinder it. We should have hair trigger sensitivity to the unity of the Spirit, and an eagerness, a deep commitment, a huge sensitivity of conscience, to maintain it.
Even as we pursue purity, we do it with peace in mind. Even as we pursue peace we do it with purity in mind. And all along we are attentive to the prosperity of the church. The church is intended to carry out its mission before Christ. It is meant to do that, by God’s Spirit, until Jesus returns. This success is not measured in worldly or financial terms, but it is observable. We are to be aware of our own actions and decisions and attitudes upon that prosperity – both the prosperity of the particular local church as it seeks to carry out its mission before Christ, and the prosperity of the churches in a community as they seek together to honor Christ and carry out His work. We should all seek the prosperity and success of our own local church as well the church of the city, and the broader affiliations we may be apart of.
Added together peace purity and prosperity result in the unity of the Spirit being maintained.
So, consider the passage in Ephesians 4 as we continue our journey through the “one another” passages together.
PS – The last two weeks week has been kind of scattered as we have more drivers than people now at our house and it changes day to day as to who gets a car! So my schedule has been a little higgeldy piggeldyof late. I put aside the daily reading for a while, and now wish to pick it up again.
PSS – Psalm 133
133:1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,