Church and Unity (3)
I’ve been extremely busy the last few days and did not have much chance to get behind a computer. But I want to have another look at Ephesians 4:3.
In my previous post I mentioned that Paul was asking the readers to live a life which was totally strange for the people of those times (and possibly equally strange for us today): “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.” And this new life-style which Paul is urging the Christians to lead will then create the climate through which there can be a feeling of real unity between the Christians.
The remarkable thing about this unity is that it cannot be created by human beings. This is a unity which comes from the Holy Spirit and our task is to maintain this unity. This, however, can only be done if we have the new life-style of which we read in 4:2.
My impression about the topic of unity is that many people are sceptic that it can work. In the process of preparing for the article I have to write, I came to the conclusion that we are afraid of allowing unity in the church, mainly because we know that most Christians still lack the characteristics described by Paul in 4:2. In South Africa, for the past 34 years, Christians in one of the main churches have been speaking about working towards unity in churches still segregated along racial lines. And the fear that I hear in the voices of those opposing it, is that they will be forced to give up certain things which are important to them – and obviously the fear will be even stronger amongst the minority groups. The same is going to happen when the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) will combine to form one new body, which I wrote about previously. The REC has 39 member churches in 25 countries. The WARC has 200 member churches in about 100 countries. It is clear to me that the members of the REC would be wondering whether they are going to lose out on the deal when the two organisations combine.
And then things started making sense to me. If we have the attitude that Paul writes about (humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with each other in love) then it should not be a problem. Then the stronger group should have enough understanding for the fear of the smaller group and accommodate them to the best of their ability so that their fear could be minimised.
As human beings we tend to show our power if we are stronger than our counterpart. It happens in marriages. It happens in politics. It happens in the church. But because we are Christians and because we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, God expects another attitude from us – the same attitude which was found in Christ (Philippians 2:5-8).
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