It is a beautiful word and concept.
But, why is it so rare?
Why are we defined by our differences and not our similarities?
In the USA, we pride ourselves on standing out from the crowd.
Yet, has this individualistic mentality caused us to be a crowd of isolated people and not a community?
God has made us all unique, but in Christ, He has also made us one.
As I reflect on my life, I realize that my tendency is to make my uniqueness the focus. This has not been to explore how God has made me and to embrace it for His glory. No, it is actually my attempt to define myself by societies’ performance based standards of what I can do, instead of who I am in Christ.
I see this same pattern in our society. We constantly focus on our differences and attempt to individualize ourselves in the midst of community.
In chapter 4, Paul address this trend for the church at Ephesus. He entreats them to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. This is not a call to performance, but it is a call to handle, with maturity, the new identity they have been given as believers in Christ.
He urges them to not just like each other, but to diligently preserve the unity that they have in Christ. It is here that we see our nature versus our call.
Our nature will be to divide and individualize.
Our call is to use our giftings and abilities, not for personal prestige but in the promotion of the health and maturity of our community.
In the core section of this chapter Paul is urging them to remember that Christ is the central figure. It is from Him that all blessings and giftings are given. The gifts that God gives are to not only help us to mature as individuals but as a community.
The tendency in both society and in our Christian communities are to glorify certain traits, giftings, personalities and abilities over others. We have created a ranking or caste system within our communities.
This tendency towards individualization and ranking is the main heart issue that Paul is addressing. Disunity through individualization is not God’s heart. One is not more valuable than the other. No one is exempt from the need to hear grace and truth spoken into their life. Our ranking systems are crippling the maturing of the body of Christ. The individualization of our faith has/is preventing us from developing into spiritually mature adults.
In our culture there is a big movement towards inclusivity. All are welcome. This sounds great, however it is not what I believe Paul is saying here. I think that inclusivity falls short of God’s desire. You can be welcome, but not respected.
In this passage, we are to respect how God is working in the lives of others lives. Even when their giftings may not be respected/valued in the normal functioning of our community. When we respect people, we view them as adults, and in turn have adult conversations. We speak the truth in love, we give grace when one falls.
As a community we must see that we exist for something far beyond ourselves, we exist for the gospel of Christ and the redemption of our world.
In verse 28, through the example of “let one who used to steal, let him steal no longer” – we see how the community helps provide the support for life change. It is messy, it will be a sacrifice, we will not want to do it. Which is why we must be urged to do so.
We will be tempted to be bitter, we will argue, we will be angry. Yet, this is not the end of the story. It is in these moments we see the gospel of Christ and how it changes us and our communities.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32
May we fight for unity in our communities.
May we show the love of Christ.
May we be empowered by the Spirit of Christ.
May we speak the truth of Christ.
May we show the grace of Christ.
May we life for the glory of Christ.
Grace & Peace,