Christians are united and need to be united. This is especially important in this time of disunity as a country.
In Christ Jesus all—Jew and Gentle, rich and poor, black and white, republican and democrat, Clemson and Ohio State, Steelers and Browns, young and old—are one. That is what Scripture teaches. That is reality.
In Christ, we are one. That is what the Bible tells us. And that’s reality.
Paul highlights that in his letter to the Ephesians. The Ephesian church faced similar difficulties that we face. They lived in divisive days too.
Acts 19 talks about a riot in Ephesus and there may have been divisions when it came to sporting events too. Ephesus had the largest theater in Asia Minor with accommodation for up to 25.000 people. The theater housed sporting events. So, people probably fought about sports then too. Not sure, though, if gladiator games count…
Christians are united in Christ
Jesus’ Kingdom is not divided. Although Jesus’ Kingdom is made up of people from Sierra and Senegal, Armenia and America, China and Chad, Portugal and Pakistan, Mexico and Malaysia (and many many more). In Christ, we are all one. And so, “The Christian’s primary solidarity is not with those who pledge allegiance to a particular flag, but those who confess Jesus as the Lord, regardless of their nationality”
We may not always feel like we’re together or unified, we may not always want to be together, but the reality is that we are. We are united and one in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:4-7). Believers in Africa and America, Iraq and Iran, Canada and Cambodia, all have the one Spirit in them. Although we look and act and think differently, we all have this in common: We are temples of the living God. More significant than our culture and country is that God lives in us believers.
All Christians have one Spirit and all Christians have one Lord (Eph. 4:5). It reminds me of marching in the army. As we marched together, there was no distinction, in a whole company of 200 soldiers. No matter who you were or where you were from, there was no distinction… When our commander said, “left” we put our left foot down. When he said, “right” we put our right foot down.
We were a lot different, but we all had the same commander and so there was no distinction.
That’s the same for Christians. We all have “one Lord.” And we all march the same.
Christians are to be United
In Christ we are united and we are to be united (Eph. 4:1-3). Paul says, “keep the unity of the Spirit.” In fact, he says, “make every effort to keep the unity.”
Paul knows it will take effort. That’s why he says, “make every effort.” So, what is the motivation for making this effort? The good news of Jesus.
Our motivation is important because unity can be very difficult. Imagine the context and challenges for Paul’s audience: Jew, Gentile, slave, free, lawbreaker, law keeper all in the same church.
That’s actually a good thing though. And a beautiful thing. As Scot McKnight has said, “The church God wants is one brimming with difference.”
Imagine the context now… These are very divided and divisive times. The apparent reality is that Christians have a ton to divide over. But, the theological reality is that Christians are united and one in Christ.
People will know we are Christians by our love for one another. When we have both glaring differences and yet radiant unity we become a mosaic of Jesus’ transforming beauty.
What does it look like to “make every effort”? Paul tells us. Paul gives us five things that are necessary if we are going to be untied. John Stott rightly says that these are the “foundation stones of Christian unity. Where these are absent no external structure of unity can stand.” Those foundation stones are gentleness, patience, love effort, and humility which we’ll be concentrating on.
Humility: Essential to Unity
Ephesians 4:2 says “Be completely humble.” Stott correctly said, “Humility is essential to unity. Pride lurks behind all discord.” I know that’s been true in my own life.
How can we have humility? Well, for one, we as Christians know we’re not all that. We know we sin. We know we get it wrong sometimes. We all stumble many ways. That should humble us.
And amazingly, the only sinless one, Jesus, the Son of God, the one that never did anything wrong, He humbled Himself. He humbled Himself to the point of death. Even the death of a cross (Phil. 2).
So, we as Christians must practice humility too. That’s part of what it means to “make every effort to maintain unity.” That’s what we’re called to do. Spare no expense. Do what it takes.
Winston Churchill during WWII made things happen. He would sometimes stamp his commands in red with the words “Action this Day.” And that’s what he expected. He expected that command to be done. He expected his people to make every effort, and I literally mean every effort to make sure it what done on that day.
I think Paul is saying something similar to us. I think he’s giving us a stamp in red ink that says: “Action this Day.” He’s saying do it. It’s that important. “Make every effort to keep the unity.”
Being united is part of what it means to walk in a worthy way; “to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Eph. 4:1). And that is supernatural. That’s part of what it means to be a city on a hill and a light in the darkness.
It’s abundantly clear that union with Christ implies union with others. The reality is that we are together built into a dwelling of God (Eph. 2:22). We are united and one whether we like it or not. If a person names and follows Jesus, we belong together even if we don’t always like that truth.
It’s also important for us to remember that we get grace from God vertically, but we also get much-needed grace from God horizontally from other people. Even when we don’t always like or agree with them.
Brothers and sisters, we have fellowship with each other and with God through our Lord Jesus! Rejoice in that good news. Division is dead. We are united. So, let’s live together in purposeful unity. It will not be easy, but Jesus’ blood was spilled to welcome us into union with Him and each other. Let’s not disregard Jesus’ great sacrifice for us.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give us the same attitude toward each other that Christ Jesus has towards us. Encourage one another, be like-minded, live in peace, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate, and humble. And the God of love and peace will be with us. So that with one mind and one voice we may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lastly, accept one another, just as Christ accepted us, for the glory of God.
This post is from chapter 11, “Hello, My Name is _____ and I am
an Addict Transformed,” from my book, Gospel-Centered War: Finding Freedom from Enslaving Sin.
The Bible does not deny that we were various things—addicts, homosexuals, hateful, prideful, pornographic masturbators—but that is what we were (past tense) (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Titus 3:3-5). The emphasis in Scripture is on what we are and what we are called to be. The Christian does not say, “Hello, my name is _____ and I am an X Y or Z.” The Christian says I was dead, but now I am alive. The Christian says I am a struggling sinner, yet I am a saint. The Christians says, I am a new creation; I am transformed.
We must remember however that we are “simultaneously saint and sinner.” This is the biblical balance. We are holy in Christ and yet we are progressively becoming holy (see 1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 10:14). I like how John Owen says it: We, who are freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it our business all our days to kill the indwelling power of sin.
Paul wrote a letter to a church located in Ephesus back in the day. The people there had many struggles. Many of them use to worship various false gods and perhaps were even involved in cult prostitution. But you know what Paul called them when he wrote to them? He called them “God’s beautiful creation,” “God’s masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10). He didn’t say, “Now church, make sure that you are constantly reminding yourselves that you were part of the occult. In fact, when you meet together say, ‘Hello, my name is ______ and I am an occultist.’” No! He said, “You are new! In Christ! Transformed!”
One of the problems in claiming the identity of “addict,” “alcoholic,” or “overeater” is that we deny that addiction is a habit that can be finally overcome. I am not saying it won’t be a struggle. I am not even saying that it will even finally be overcome in this life. Yet, the Bible teaches the freeing and empowering truth that in Christ we are currently a new creation. It says we are adopted children of God. We are even God’s beloved; His treasure.
Labeling may not seem like a big deal but it is. In hospitals, it is important for people to be labeled correctly. If someone has a gunshot wound on their leg, they should not be taken to a cardiologist and someone that has the flu, they should not be life-flighted. Labels are important for treatment. Labels are important for our own treatment. The treatment of ourselves. How we look at ourselves, talk to ourselves, think of ourselves.