Stewards of Unity
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. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:1-16 NIV
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Paul is asking his readers to live together in the unity of the Spirit, to be a fellowship of believers who love, support, encourage and help one another. Author, speaker and church planter John White (1924-2002) says, ‘It is not possible to exaggerate the importance of your fellowship with you fellow Christians. You need their love. You need their discipline. They need yours.’
White cites the prayer of Jesus in John 17:20-23, in which Jesus prayed specifically for the unity of his followers. Jesus’ reason? ‘That the world may believe’ (Jn 17:21). White continues:
“For the church was to be left on earth for that purpose; that the world might believe. Power in testimony is evidently not something that the church can possess as a sort of separate package; it cannot exist alone. The church that convinces men that there is a God in heaven is a church that manifests what only a heavenly God can do, that is to unite human beings in heavenly love. Wherever the sign of loving unity exists, the world will be convinced.”
Author and social activist Jim Wallis claims that the need for koinonia (fellowship) of the unified church is the greatest need in the church today.
“The greatest need is not simply for kerygma, the preaching of the gospel; nor for diakonia, service on behalf of justice; nor for charisma, the experience of the Spirit’s gift; nor even for prophetia, the challenging of the king. The greatest need of our time is for koinonia, the call simply to be the church, to love one another, and to offer our lives for the sake of the world. The creation of living, breathing, loving communities of faith at the local church level is the foundation of all the other answers. The community of faith offers a visible and concrete alternative, and issues a basic challenge to the world as it is.”
Each Christian has it in his or her own power to be a steward and promoter of unity. White says,
“You can begin in your own life to be an answer to the high priestly prayer of Christ. You can become a small focus of change. If you are willing to be a channel of unity, you will find the power of heaven on your side. Not only will you experience pains and joys of an order you had not dreamed possible, but you will become the scent of life to non-Christians around you. The sight of loving unity among believers arrests the unbeliever. It crashes through the barriers of his intellect, stirs up his conscience and creates a tumult of longing in his heart. He was created to enjoy the very thing you are destroying.”