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On Faith: Finding unity in Christ

(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. (4) There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. —Ephesians 4:1—6 (ESV)

The first verses in chapter four of Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus have been a favorite of mine for a long time, and the more I read it over the years, the more I like it.

Paul, in his letters, always stresses the wonder of the gospel (as he should), but does something in this letter that I can never get enough of: He shows how Christ's death and resurrection should impact us as his followers — namely, that we should be more focused on unity than the things that divide us.

It is an easy thing to be divided. You don't have to look any farther than the news tonight to hear about dividing lines in our nation and community, and even the list of churches in this paper is evidence that we don't always strive for unity, even among those who trust in Christ.

It's a simple truth: We are all sinful people, and any time you put sinful people together, they will have conflict — it's as true in marriage as it is in churches.

But Paul presents us with a radical idea: We have been united with Christ, and in being joined with him in new life, we are joined with one another as what Paul calls "members of his body."

It's a simple word picture: As parts of the body are formed together for one purpose in supporting the life of that body, we have been joined together for the purpose of serving Christ and making others aware of the life and love that is found in Jesus.

Paul describes that striving for unity among those who follow Jesus as walking in a manner worthy of our calling, with humility, gentleness, patience, love and an eagerness for unity. And all that because we share one faith and one hope in the one who won salvation for us.

Paul goes on in later verses to share why this unity is important:

(12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (15) Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (16) from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

God has given us a shared hope in Christ, one that is not rooted in selfishness or self-centered desires. We grow in faith and knowledge together. We grow in maturity together. We grow in Christlikeness together. And the calling that we have in Christ is to make him known to the lost and hurting in the world — together.

It is God's desire that we follow Christ, that we live in the unity that we have in him, because of him, and that we build up one another in love.

We are called to unity. One savior, one faith, one mission — that is what God has given us. In a culture that breeds division, in a faith that often divides over the small things at the expense of the vital, may we strive for unity, forgiveness and love as we seek — together — to fulfill our calling in Christ.

"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.

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