Paul lived at a time when division lines were as clear as mud. People were easily identified by their nationality, color and religion. Other dividing lines were wealth and family names. People usually knew their place even when it was not the most comfortable place to be. Some made sure that you noticed who they were by the way they dressed, carried themselves, what they ate or even who they associated with.
Maybe those among us here who grew up at a time of segregation might identify with some of the traits. Times when German immigrants were considered as lower citizens and not to mention the Koreans during the Korean War. Humans, like animals, have ways of dividing themselves, sometimes for good or other times for bad. Today our reading is trying to help us see the strengths of unity in diversity that fulfill our calling. In this part of the letter Paul is inviting believers to be united. It is in unity that we find our call fulfilled. Jesus has called us to be one as he is one with the father.
The bond of unity is possible through peace. Whenever there is chaos there is usually disunity. We would, therefore, like to examine what God requires of us when it comes to building the one body of Christ. It is when we live these values that our calling becomes complete. Our calling by God is achieved when we live to the values that God has set forth.
1. Christian Virtues:
This is what we call standard operational manual. Those who own any kind of machine, from a razor to a garage door opener have to learn to operate them in the acceptable way. Those using electricity need to be aware of a power-outage. We, therefore, ask ourselves as God’s creation what is our standard operation mode. It is worth noting that our Christian standard is “Jesus Christ and the demands of God’s perfection,” says Barclays and therefore against such there is no room for pride. The Godly standard is to try and live the Christian virtues (humility, gentleness, long-suffering, love, and peace).
Humility: humble, gentle, and patient; these three just get us started on how we are supposed to behave before other people. They invite us to a level where we are to act nice and to live a life of simplicity. It is Paul who reminds us that those who humble themselves will be lifted up. Paul talks of himself decreasing while Christ increases. Humility, therefore, becomes a Christian virtue. Humility helps us to face who we are and our weaknesses. Being gentle will involve self-control that helps one to act at the right time in the right way. Our humility comes from self-knowledge; accepting one’s unworthiness. That is accepting the fact that by God’s standard we are way down but we depend on his grace. Humility is a lesson we learn from Jesus himself when he reminds us that he never counted himself equal with the father. He humbled himself, though a king, to come and live an ordinary life.
Love and be tolerant: One of the attributes of love is learning to be tolerant of one another. The love that Paul recommends here is the Greek word, Agape, which means sacrificial love. It is from Jesus’ death on the cross that we learn of this love. Even when all bad things were done against him, he never sought revenge but rather asked God to forgive his people. I like the connection of truth and love. We are reminded that they go together. It does not help to tell the truth of it if it is not told in love. It will leave more damage. It was Bishop Desmond Tutu, the retire archbishop of the Anglican Church, who used to say (paraphrased) “A block of truth thrown on someone’s face leaves more damage than not being thrown.” Equally, by telling the truth in a way that is not loving, the person will be hurt badly. You can’t hide from telling them the truth for fear of hurting their feelings but told in love it helps them heal.
Be gentle when dealing with others: When Jesus was dealing with people in his earthly ministry he was gentle and treated every person with dignity. He never condemned people but, rather, lifted them up. When he met the Samaritan woman at the well, he never condemned her but rather invited her to drink the everlasting water that he offered that would never make her thirsty again.
Live in peace with one another: Living in peace with one another is important as believers because we share a lot of things, hence, we can’t afford not to. We all share: One body in Christ, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God. With the upspring of many denominations, it is easy for one denomination to think that they are better than the other, or even in a church we can quickly miss the goal of our journey because of a few disagreements that happen within. For peace to prevail we have to be willing to allow the self to die and for Christ to spring within us. That means we have to learn to be patient with others. On a number of occasions Jesus gave people the opportunity to speak what was in their mind first before he would respond. He would have responded right away because he already knew what they were to ask but he never did. He never judged people. He let them judge themselves.
We have to bear one another in love: Jesus invited all who carried any kind of burden to bring it over to him on the cross and he would give them rest. Jesus acted out of love and never out of showing himself or to prove anything. It was this love that moved him to want to come and die for us so that we may have life and have it in its fullness.
2. Acknowledging each other’s gifts:
Each of us is unique for we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of the categories that we have used is a different approach but with the same result expected and that is to prepare God’s people for his service, in other words, to build God’s kingdom. By allowing ourselves to acknowledge each other’s God-given gifts we are able to accomplish a lot. Among us there are those who God has given a gift of listening, or comforting, or saying words of wisdom. The Bible gives us different categories but all for one purpose.
Apostles: Church leaders; Prophets: tells the will of God; Evangelists: wondering and preaching; Pastors: shepherds; Teachers: educate the people.
3. Growing up in our faith:
This will help us in being grounded in the right doctrine.
Forgetting what divides us and concentrate on what unites us: People of Christian faith have to remind themselves that we drink from the same cup. That is the cup of salvation. What then unites us as Christian believers? The following are the reasons why we are one:
- one body
- one spirit
- one hope
- one Lord
- one faith
- one baptism
- one God.
The life that is worth the calling, calls us to be willing and ready: what unites us is knowing that we are one body, one spirit, one hope, one baptism, one Lord and one God. Appreciate people that are different from us and work toward complementing each other.
Avoid being infants in our faith: The challenge we face every day is Christian brothers and sisters who are not growing up. People are still feeding on mile, yet they have been in church for ten years or even more. You ask, “How can I grow up, Pastor?” In ways that Jesus said and all the preachers who have gone before have said:
- Feed on the Word of God: by owning your Bible and making it a habit to read it
- Join a small group that spends some of their time in the Word of God
- Be part of a Sunday school class, reading inspirational literature and use other modern technology for that purpose
- Be in fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. There is nothing like solitary Christianity. It is in working together that we can accomplish what God intended us to accomplish.