24 November 2015Ephesians 4:1-6
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all." (vv. 4-6)
Psalm: Psalm 133
God, it seems, can only do so much! While God poured out
abundant love through Jesus Christ, and called us to share in the
all-inclusive embrace of that love, God cannot, or will not, force
us to let that love transform our lives. It wouldn't be love, of
course, if it was imposed against our will.
And so the writer of this letter begs his readers to behave as though they really have responded to the call of God's love. This raises a fundamental issue which has divided Christians for nearly 2,000 years. Are we saved (or redeemed, or inwardly transformed, or whatever) by the irresistible force of divine love or by the voluntary exercise of human willpower in response to God's gracious invitation? Blood has been shed over this question - which is ironic, given what follows in the remaining verses.
The only life worthy of God's call is one of "humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love". And this, we are told, requires effort. It doesn't come naturally. A key problem for the Ephesian Christians was that those from a Jewish background simply wouldn't get on with those from a Gentile (non-Jewish) background. To overcome this would require a real effort, a real act of will. God would not (could not) impose unity against their will. They would have to want it and work at it, inspired, but not coerced, by God's love.
God's primary purpose it appears is simply to restore a common, united humanity to a divided world. For Paul, the uniting of Jews and Gentiles in one Church was the start and the symbol of this. And this unity is derived from the relationship between the one Spirit, one Lord and one Father that the Church, much later, came to call the Trinity. The amazing suggestion of these verses is that we are all invited to join in.
- Are we saved (or redeemed, or inwardly transformed, or whatever) by the irresistible force of divine love or by the voluntary exercise of human willpower in response to God's gracious invitation? What do you think?
- The big problem in Paul's day was that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians simply couldn't get along. What issues still divide the Church today?
- What excuses do we use for not "making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"?