Why Should I Make Every Effort to Preserve Church Unity?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
As we saw in yesterday's reflection, if we are to live out our divine calling, then we will "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (4:3). I noted yesterday that "make every effort" is, in the original Greek, a clause that is part of the previous sentence. We will walk worthy of God's calling by "making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit."
Let me add a couple more textual comments here. First, notice the verb in the phrase "keep the unity of the Spirit." Unity among God's people is not something we fabricate on our own. Rather, it is a work of God. It is a result of what God has done through Christ, who died in order to "create in himself one new humanity out of the two [Jew and Greek], thus making peace" (Eph. 2:15). The Holy Spirit takes new believers and unites them in the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-14). God dwells in this unified church through the presence of the Spirit (Eph. 3:22; 1 Cor. 3:16-17).
Second, the verb translated in the NIV as "make every effort" is spoudazo. Its most literal meaning is "be zealous," based on the Greek word spoude, which means "zeal" or "eagerness." Thus, we make every effort to preserve Christian unity not only because it is right for us to do so, but also because we feel passionate about unity. As people in touch with the heart of God, we desire church unity. We yearn for it. Thus, we do all in our power to preserve it.
Are there times when a church becomes so fractured by false teaching or immoral behavior that unity cannot be preserved? Perhaps. I cannot begin to address this question in just a few sentences. But, what is clear from Ephesians is that the unity of his people is at the center of his plan for the cosmos. God cares deeply about church unity, and so should we. Moreover, however complicated and confusing our situation might be, we should always be zealous to preserve the unity of the Spirit. It's hard to find zeal for church division in Ephesians. Furthermore, we should always put our zeal into action through what we do and through what we choose not to do. A good starting point, as we have seen, would be to live humbly, gently, patiently, and with forbearance.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to the priority of church unity? Does this feel exciting to you? Overwhelming? Burdensome? Or . . . ? What might you do today to help the church of Jesus Christ be more unified?
PRAYER: Gracious God, help me to have your heart for your church. Give me a zeal for the unity of our people that motivates me to act. Guide me by your Spirit to live in a way that contributes to the unity of your church. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.