Some people would disagree. Some people would perpetuate the idea that it is a “dog eat dog world” and it’s everyone for themselves - every man, woman, child, dog, cat and canary. Some people would continue to believe the story that fear and shame tells us by putting us against one another; constantly comparing us to each other in one way or another. Some people would say “I don’t care anymore.” Some people take on the world. Some people hide from the world. CHURCH, WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SOME PEOPLE. Are we?
In Ephesians 4, Paul writes a letter to the church. He doesn’t hold back. He gives them the piercing truth of who they are and how they are to be as the church. This letter is not written to those outside the church. It is not written to those who don’t know or don’t follow Jesus. It is written to believers; to those who have said yes to Jesus. It is a spiritual fitness accountability check-ist for the church. Let’s see how we do on the spiritual fitness checklist.
First, who is writing this letter? The apostle Paul - not a first year seminary student, or someone with no background, experience or foundation in what and who Jesus was about. Not someone with very little experience in all things Jesus and not a rookie church planter. This is Paul we are talking about.
Where is he writing it from? Prison - not on the sandy shores of the sea of Galilee, or in some immaculate synagogue or cathedral in the safety and comfort of his own home office or study. He is in prison.
How does he approach us, I mean the church? He says, “I beg you…” Not “I think this is a good idea,” or “hey you might want to consider,” or “this is your friendly reminder…” He says, “I beg you!” One of the greatest spiritual fitness coaches of the church is begging us, I mean the church, to pay attention and get it right.
Do get what right? What does he beg us, I mean the church, to do? To lead a life “worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” Jesus has a call on our lives; a mark, a reason, a love claim, a purpose, and Paul is saying, lead a life worthy of what Jesus has on you. Lead a life that honors Jesus. Lead a life that models Jesus’ teachings.
What does that look like? How are we, I mean the church, to treat each other? “With ALL humility, gentleness, patience and bearing with one another in love” (v. 2). The text doesn’t say, with “some or limited humility”, or “with conditional gentleness.” It doesn’t say, with “measured or calculated patience.” It says “with ALL humility, gentleness and patience” we are to bear with one another in love. WITH one another. Not for one another, in spite of one another, because of one another, in competition with, or against one another. With one another in LOVE. Not in judgement, ridicule, or criticism. Not in envy, arrogance, or spite.
Paul then says, “make EVERY effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Every effort. Not partial effort, not half way effort. Not only when I feel like it, or when it's convenient for me and my schedule effort, and not if I can do it from my comfort zone effort. The text says, “make every effort to maintain unity...”
Effort. That is the key to any fitness routine, workout regime, or health plan. It is the key for any athlete at any age or skill level. Effort. Whether physical or spiritual, it takes effort to make it happen or see results or have an impact. It takes effort to be the church. It takes effort to follow Jesus, to help one another, come alongside one another, promote one another, share the burden or load with one another. It takes effort to respond to or interact with what goes on in our world. It takes effort to keep the main thing the main thing, and keep hold of that which unites us more than that which divides us.
When we can do that, we embody the essence, purpose and character of Jesus. When we do that, we are a togethering church and there is no telling what God will do with a church like that.
Can you imagine what would happen if more churches would exist, pray, teach, lead and maybe even follow out of “all humility, gentleness, and patience, and bear with one another in love? If more churches would put forth the effort to be spiritually fit rather than spiritually right or spiritually superior?
What might God do in and through a church like that? Let’s be the people of God willing to find out. Amen.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine