May 11, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:1-3 (NRSV)
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
If you want to live out your Christian calling, you can start by speaking and acting in ways that support the unity of your church, even if that requires plenty of humility, gentleness, patience, and putting up with things you don’t like. The unity of Christ’s people is a result of his death and a testimony to the power of the gospel.
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
Ephesians 4 urges us to “lead a life worthy” of our calling as Christians. In yesterday’s devotion, we began to look at how we should do this. We saw that we can begin to live out our calling by imitating Jesus’s humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. Today, we consider another way we can express our calling in action.
In addition to being humble, gentle, patient, and forbearing, we should be “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). This unity is quite clearly what can be experienced in Christian community because it comes from the Spirit. Notice that we are exhorted to maintain (the Greek verb basically means “to keep”) the unity that comes from the Spirit. We don’t create church unity through our own efforts. Rather, we strive to protect and preserve the unity that God gives through the Holy Spirit.
We might wonder why unity matters so much, and what it has to do with our calling? Once again, we find an answer from the previous chapters of Ephesians. As you may recall, in Ephesians 1 we discover God’s grand plan for the cosmos, namely, “to gather up all things in [Christ]” (Ephesians 1:10). In Christ, God will ultimately bring to unity the divided, shattered world.
God has already begun to do this work of uniting broken things. In Ephesians 2, we learn that God is at work bringing together divided peoples, in particular, Jews and Greeks. Through his death on the cross, Christ broke down “the dividing wall of hostility” that separated these two peoples. He did this so that “he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15). Because of Christ, all Christians are joined together in unity (2:21), becoming “a dwelling place for God” (2:22).
The unity of Christians, therefore, is an essential element of “the calling to which [we] have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). It isn’t spiritual extra credit. It doesn’t show up only in the fine print of the gospel. Rather, Christian unity is an essential result of the work of Jesus on the cross.
But this unity isn’t merely some theological abstract, something to be thought about but not actually experienced. On the contrary, who we are as the united body of Christ is something we who follow Jesus ought to experience in real life and real time. Because it’s so central to our calling, Ephesians shows that we will walk worthy of our calling by “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The Greek verb translated in the NRSV as “making every effort” could also be rendered as “being zealous or eager.” Unity is something every Christian should be zealous or eager to maintain. Seeking unity is essential to living our calling.
Unfortunately, many Christians have overlooked Ephesians 4:3. We have a knack for dividing up over things, often things that aren’t really all that important. If we don’t like something our church is doing, even if it isn’t theologically objectionable, we have a tendency to complain, deride, and divide. Left to our own devices, we’re not very good at living humbly and gently, exercising patience and forbearance, and making every effort to preserve unity. We need the clear exhortation of Scripture, such as we find in Ephesians 4; the strong support of our fellow Christians; and the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to help us yearn for and work to maintain Christian unity.
If you want to live out your Christian calling, you can start by speaking and acting in ways that support the unity of your church, even if that requires plenty of humility, gentleness, patience, and putting up with things you don’t like.
Are you zealous for the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ?
Are you eager to see your own church unified?
What could you do to strengthen the unity of your local church?
Ask the Lord what you might do to support the unity of your church. As he lays something on your heart, do it.
Gracious God, again we thank you for calling us to yourself and into yourself. Your calling makes all the difference in the world to us.
Given how central the unity of your people is to your saving work, help me to be zealous for unity. Help me to live out this eagerness in tangible ways. May I make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit. When I’m tempted to act in ways that deride and divide, help me to turn back to you.
I pray today for my church, that we might be united in you. Help us to put aside our differences and to embody humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. Help me to contribute to the unity of my church family, that we might demonstrate to the world the truth of the gospel. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Reflections:Why Make Such a Big Deal of Humility, Gentleness, Patience, and Forbearance? (2)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.