Jesus was a brilliant teacher. He managed to simplify entire law of the Old Testament in order for anyone to remember. He summarized six hundred and thirteen commands into just two new commands: Love God. Love others.
Love God. Check. But loving others…that is where the wheels start coming off.
Unity has been on my heart a lot lately. Love is demonstrated more in how conflicts are handled as opposed to what the conflicts actually are. Above all the right and wrong, how we treat each other matters because the how more than the what effects our unity.
After several days of pondering this concept a scripture came to mind: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) This admonishment naturally fell under the chapter titled “Unity in the Body of Christ.” Of course, that makes sense. There are numerous scriptures that speak to how we treat each other as members of Christ.
Am I required to include my husband in this?
Incidentally, during a time that we were having many discussions about unity in the church, strongly convicted of the importance of treating brothers and sisters with love, I was at odds with my husband.
And the Spirit brought me to Ephesians 4 and 5. What if these chapters were written to mean the entire body of Christ, not just the “church” body of Christ? In other words, as obvious as this point is, maybe I should be applying to my marriage the principles taught in these chapters rather than waiting until chapter 5 verse 22 which specifically addresses wives.
How did I miss this?
Married, single, brothers or sisters, parents or children, the relationship is irrelevant. If we are a part of the body of Christ, these lessons apply to us. They apply to every relationship we have.
- Love one another. Acting in love wraps up the rest of the commands. Love, true love, agape love makes everything else possible. Love others.
- Be peacefully unified. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. In Christ there is one everything: body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God, and Father. Living as one in Christ leads to peace and unity.
- Increase strength and stability. Maturity is shown by building others up until we are unified in faith and knowledge in Jesus. Maturity also grounds us keeping us unshaken by the latest trends and unaffected by Satan’s schemes.
- Cultivate growth. Speaking the truth in love results in growth into Christ, the one who holds everything together. Growth allows us to be more like Jesus.
- Remain sensitive. A hard heart leads to ignorance, resulting in a loss of sensitivity, and ultimately in indulgence of every kind of impurity. It is too easy to allow our hearts to harden. But we must remain soft if we have any chance of leading pure lives.
- Renew daily. Put on the new self which is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. God’s mercies are new every morning. Yesterday is gone. Choose to put on a new self today.
- Be honest and kind. Speak truthfully and take care of issues today. Say only what is useful. Get rid of evil. Be nice. And by doing so you will not grieve the Holy Spirit.
- Imitate God. Live a life of love as God’s children and because Christ loved us. “What would Jesus do?” turns out to be more than just a trendy saying from the nineties.
- Walk blamelessly. Not even a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk, coarse joking. Be above reproach.
- Be wise. Make the most of every opportunity. Be engaged and ready so when opportunities arise, you will have the wisdom to act.
- Put others above yourself because of your respect for Christ. Imagine what life would be if everyone in the body loved Jesus so much that they put other’s needs and desires above their own.
Maybe, just maybe, instead of stressing about what everyone else is or isn’t doing, I could start by working on unity in my own home, in each of my relationships, and let unity in the church flow from there. How many of us have read a scripture or heard a lesson and thought, “Man, I really wish so-and-so could hear this!”?
Yep. We are all probably thinking of someone right now.
Maybe it’s time we look in the mirror and acknowledge that Ephesians, in fact, was written to all of us. This letter includes everyone in the body of Christ. Maybe it’s time to quit worrying about what everyone else said or didn’t say or did or didn’t do and start working on the only person we actually can control. Maybe we should spend less time talking to people who essentially cannot do much about a situation and starting talking to the One who walked on water, who turned water into wine, who caused barren women to conceive, who revolutionized the world with twelve ordinary men, who changed the course of eternity because he made the impossible possible.
The impossible may be unity in your marriage, unity with your children, or unity in the church. When we see the impossible, our eyes are not focused on the One who makes all things possible. God has done the impossible since before creation. Why not now?
Whatever conflict you are working through today or whoever is on the other end of the strife really doesn’t matter. What matters is how YOU act, how YOU handle the situation and how YOU apply what God says about conflict. If everyone resolved to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” we would spend less time cleaning up the mess we have created inside the church and more time fulfilling our calling. Life is hard enough without us helping Satan do his work.
Let’s choose to stop the fighting, start uniting, and watch God once again do the seemingly impossible.
Starting with the one reflected in the mirror.