Humans have two fundamental forces that seem to contradict and work against each other: we long to belong – to be loved and accepted; and we long to assert our individual preferences and opinions. Pop singers from Bob Marley (“One Love”) to the Black Eyed Peas (“Union”) cry out for a humanity that reconciles these tensions in a manner that allows us to live in peace. With our diversity of ethnicity, culture, personality, education, generation – and the list could go on, how can we possibly expect to live in unity?
I have been thinking about such things the past while as we move further along the pandemic timeline. The patience of many is wearing thin, and all of us will be tempted to judge others as we make plans and efforts to re-integrate gathering into daily living. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” approach that will please everyone, including when, where, and how church gathering is resumed. It is times like this that it is good to remind ourselves that God is in the process of remaking all of us into his image through Christ and the work of his Spirit. More important than the right to express ourselves, is the privilege of imitating God. In Ephesians 5:1, Paul states succinctly and rather bluntly: “be imitators of God”. This verse hinges the practical exhortation we find on either side of the command. After laying some the of our deepest Christian theology as the foundation in the first half of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gets practical in the last half. In 4:1 he writes: “I therefore…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 one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
God asks us to walk in a manner worthy of His calling, and to be like Him. And this is no isolated command. Consider “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45), or Peter’s, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). Well, if you give any serious consideration to this you are bound to say “whoa, wait a minute, that sounds pretty tough”! It is; in fact, it is impossible outside of God.
Thankfully, we also have those first three chapters of Ephesians! This is why Paul writes, for instance, in 3:16 “according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Our walk is a high calling, in fact the highest – to walk in a manner that reflects the character and nature of God. Our walk is our daily life, our lifestyle. It is who you are, and how you live. It is both what God has done in Christ for you, and what you in response do in your humble walk before him. It is a walk of humility (4:1-3), the recognition that we need God; it is a walk of unity (4:4-16); it is a walk contrary to the world (4:17-32); and it is a walk of love (5:1-2).
Our God is a self-revealing God, the “I am that I am” God. It is our unique privilege as the Church to be called to also reveal God through imitation. What the world desires, God reveals. Our Trinitarian God is unity in diversity personified. As we “walk in a manner worthy of our calling” we also, in spite of our diversity, will model unity – a unity which can only be found in Christ. At a time bound to be filled with many opinions, competing soundbites, and clashing priorities, may we as the church shine as a beacon of hope and true Christian unity.