I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3
Have you ever felt half-hearted or nonchalant in your work or recreational pursuits? The outcome is predictable, right? We might get the job done but we have no interest in going the extra mile and there is little joy in the journey. We might win the match, but the conquest rings hollow and we pass on the victory lap.
This deflated condition plays even worse in our relationships.
Jesus likened “going through the motions” in our relationship with God to drinking lukewarm water (Revelation 3:14-22). Most of the Christians in the church in Laodicea apparently had no idea how far they had fallen. Their love and spiritual fervor had been all but snuffed out by material gains and self-sufficiency. In what was Jesus’ harshest rebuke in the letters to the seven churches, he said, “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” The polar opposite of love is arguably indifference. Elie Weisel, holocaust survivor, famously drew that conclusion.
The recipients of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians were in no such condition. In fact, in his greeting to the church the Apostle commended them for their “faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (Eph. 1:15). His exhortation in chapter 4 was therefore akin to “keep up the good work.” And what exactly then does it look like when we are “hot” in our relationships and filled with the Spirit in our communities? The words Paul penned (3 nouns and a verb) are earnest, thoughtful and engaged words: humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another (i.e. enduring). This posture was the overflow of a heart warmed by God’s love. Paul employed one more critical verb in his plea to be “maintain the unity of the Spirit”. EAGER.
Relational discord in our communities of faith will always serve as a litmus test for our hearts. Is a pulse detectable? Do we care enough to build a bridge? Or are we landing in the other ditch and find ourselves escalating the conflict as we tap into a reservoir of bitterness? An eager diligence recognizes the seriousness of interpersonal fissures that lead to disunity. Such collisions should set off alarm bells and should move us into problem solving mode. σπουδάζω means to do one’s best; to hasten; to labor over. If we find ourselves paralyzed in such moments – for whatever reason – I would suggest calling on trusted peacemakers in our lives to offer wise counsel.
May the Lord give us grace as we eagerly strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
Father, have mercy on us. Our hearts are fickle, our fervor wanes, and we would rather argue our positions in passive aggressive ways than engage in the hard work of bridging and reconciliation. We confess our fleshly impulses and we invite You to search our hearts. As we refrain from food in this fast to focus on feeding our souls, we also choose to starve any bitterness we detect in our souls and to put on love.
Ministry Director, Christian Union Gloria (Harvard College)
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