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. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:1-6
In these verses from Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that unity is an expression of the trinitarian life revealed in us through our taking on and living out the gifts of faith, hope, and love.
First, Paul exhorts us to love. He takes two directions here. The first goes inward, toward humility, meekness, and patience – all marks of God’s transforming power. The second is outward, demonstrated through forbearance and active service (making every effort to fulfill the call to agape), worked out in and through us by the Spirit. In this way, unity is the fruit of conversion and sanctification.
Second, Paul sets unity on the theological foundation of faith that centers on the one Lord, Jesus Christ, and the only God, the sovereign Father. Our connection to that center, regardless of what tradition we represent, is baptism. By using the word baptism, Paul presents a window into the grace of God that is ours through the cross of the Lamb and through his victory over death.
Finally, unity is a sign of God’s eternal kingdom lived in the now. We are not only spurred to unity by our experience of the Spirit’s power connecting us to Jesus’ death and resurrection; we are equally pulled forward by our expectation that the Father will bring to pass his perfect purpose at the Son’s return.
So, the source of unity – and perhaps its greatest blessing – is that it resides in and originates from the Triune God himself. Unity comes to us as a gift from him; and is ours to live through the same power that brought each of us out of darkness into the kingdom of light.
Lord, help us to change our attitudes where we do not love one another as we should. Change us so that we see you in everyone, and in that learn to have concern for each other, despite our differences. We thank you that you have put your Holy Spirit in each of us, as we have opened our lives to you. We pray that we might be able to step out in love for one another, in this bearing witness to the fact that you are living in us, and so that all may know that you are our Lord. Amen.
This reflection is excerpted from © The Sword of the Spirit reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity January 18 – 25 2023.
See other reflections on Ascending and Overcoming Obstacles to Christian Unity by Paul Beckman:
- Getting Beyond Hostility
- Crossing the Borders of Indifference
- The Joy of Acceptance
- Honoring Our Call with Mutual Respect
- Discovering the Treasure of Interdependence
- Showing Deference with Humility
- Defending One Another
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