1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
Paul now points to the purpose for our action and attitude:
Why do we need to walk in action and attitudes, what is Gods goal? Unity, Christ centered community, a willingness to live in continued communion with our Christian brothers and sisters. Unity does not imply uniformity; it’s not simply the idea of agreeing. Unity does not mean that all Christians will be passionate about the same things or perform identical ministries. It does imply a common purpose and interdependence within the body of Christ. The first thing we need to note here is that Christians don’t create unity, we are to “Make every effort to keep” it already exists and must be diligently preserved. As believers we are all saved, sealed and indwelt by the same Spirit. We look forward to the same hope and the same home in heaven. We live for One Lord, our Savior and supreme commander, we have One common faith of fundamental truth and believe in One baptism. Unity is living out in our Oneness in the Lord, sharing our life as we serve in one body. While we cannot create it, we can preserve it. We are called to passionately pursue unity by having active attitudes of humility. Pride makes us phony where humility keeps us honest. It was Saint Augustine who said: “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.” Humility is seeing self through God’s eyes of eternity and living in the grace of His gift instead of the guilt of our failure, or the pride of our performance. Humility frees us from the prison of performance and perfectionism that drive us to grabbing and guilt giving, providing a pathway to grace giving. Are you living in guilt or grace? Humility heals the hurt and hurried heart that has been powered by pride. This heart of humility should generate a gentleness and graciousness in our dealings with others. While our gentleness should be willing to patiently enduring prolonged irritation and our love should long to live in forgiveness and fellowship. Our love should prompt us and provide the platform for us to put up with the faults of our fellow brothers and sisters. It is here that we discover the hard work involved in maintaining unity. Paul literally says, work hard, strive and sweat as you apply yourself to maintaining a harmony in the spirit of peace. Are you passionately pursuing peace or just being passive? One of the realities of being human is that harmony doesn’t maintain itself; it doesn’t automatically or accidentally just happen. It requires looking outside of self and seeing something much bigger than me, His master plan. Sometimes we need to be big enough to bite our tongue, or be tender when we would rather tell others off. It means that we don’t default to demanding our own way but willingly and joyfully serve others and not self. It means not just avoiding but axing gossip, cutting out critical remarks and slaying the sarcasm. We must refuse to rummage around in the rumors and instead run to truth. Division and disunity are the most detrimental vices a church can experience. In Mark 3:25 Jesus said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand!” Are you sowing the seeds of discord and dissention or planting peace? Proverbs 6:19 tells us that one of the seven things that God hates is “a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” We need to stop sowing the sour seeds of discord and guard every thought, control every word, and discipline every action. There are those who seem to thrive on controversy, living in perpetual crisis. Gossip becomes their go to and despite their claim to not like how they live they seem to crave and create chaos. Today many are ruining relationships by ramming them against the rocks of being right, and running them aground by demand our way instead of His Will. We are scuttling the ship of service, sinking the Saviors Will in our effort to serve self. In desire to be right we revert to ramrodding our relationships with two year old temper tantrums tactics. Or we passively aggressively push others around with our silly silent treatment or baby like behavior of banging around in an effort to get others to respond the way we want. Are you trying to convince and convict others with the cold shoulder of childishness? The result is that we are living with the wreck of sunken relationships. Today our marriages are a mess; a divided marriage is a dying one. Harmony in the home is hard, it takes work and a willingness to trade my wants for His will. We need to see unity is practical terms of achieving kingdom purposes. How do you work and play with others? Do you help or hinder? God cares about our relationships with each other, He cares about the application of the oneness He has given us. Sometimes, admittedly, we want it our way, caring more about self than service. We live in a culture that elevates the importance of the individual. Where my rights are right and no one should run over my rights, however I reserve the right to ruin those who violate my rights and get in my way. While we live in a world that wants to emphasize the importance of the individual but God gives clear instruction on unity and how we are to behave in community. God not only cares about how we conduct ourselves individually, He is concerned about our caring in the context of community. We are called to walk and work together, because the Christian life is more than just believing, it’s about belonging. Do you realize that unity has already been given? We just need to live it out, the hardest work has already been accomplished on the cross. We have a responsibility to live out oneness and put away any attitude that causes disunity recognizing it as rebellion. Pride promotes disunity, when we demand our way over others we tear at and trash unity, hurting the heart of community. The opposite of gentleness is harshness which injures unity through being critical, rude, and aggressively asserting our right. The opposite of patience is hurriedness which encourages not only disorganization but disunity. Do you have a heart of hurry? This is when we find ourselves fuming with family because something is taking longer than we think it should. Many of us have become caught up in the raging current of our consumer culture which wants to carry us along at break neck speeds. We are being swept away by a society that has lost the ability to stop and soak in the scenery. We see the pause button as a problem, as an interruption, we want to just play the song so we can sing and dance. We move to the music, we riding the rhythm but whose song are we singing the Saviors or self? Our fast passed society has poisoned patience to the point where we see it as a hindrance to progress and the curse instead of the cure. So we push people to our persuasion instead of practicing patience and walking the path together. When we hurry the heart we often dismiss people in the pursuit of our own plans and hurt the heart of community. We need to focus on the truth that unity is sacred not superficial. Unity is not only God’s plan it’s His priority. This is not to say that we can’t disagree, disagreements are a part of a free and healthy family, but how we disagree is very important. We are to disagree without being disagreeable, when we voice our disagreements with anger, we are wrong. When we are controlled by a critical spirit and voice our disagreements by talking about people, instead of with them, then we are wrong. When we value others and voice our disagreements with a spirit of love, grace and compassion, it can lead to a healthy discourse as we work to discern the Spirit’s leading. Are you going to walk, work and play well with others? Are you being humble or hard to get along with, gentle or harsh, patient or hurried, helping or hindering? What part of peace do you need to pursue?