TEXT: Ephesians 4:1-6; Colossians 3:12-15
Last week we began a Fall series called “Becoming.” We are looking at the core values of our church and some of the scriptures in which they are rooted. Last week we talked about GROWING through the reading and studying of God’s Word and I invited you to commit freshly to the Word.
Today we are going to talk about a second core value at Good Shepherd and that is CARING. Our deacons are one expression of our caring ministry, with their regular outreach to members and to newcomers to the church. But each of us is called to care for one another in love. We are going to look at two scripture passages today that both talk about caring. And while each uses slightly different language for it, both root that caring in the unity we have in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Called for Unity (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Let’s look first at Ephesians 4:1-6. Paul implores his readers to “walk in a manner worthy of their calling.” (v.1) He’ll mention “calling” again in verse 4, where he names our calling in a long list of ‘ones.’ He is stressing the unity of being a Christ-follower. And Christian unity is the emphasis in these verses. The church in Ephesus was apparently struggling over some division and conflict and Paul is reminding them that they are “one in the Spirit, one in the Lord.”
What does it mean to be ‘called’? I think we over-complicate the idea of calling. We do sometimes use it to describe being “called to ministry.” But I think it’s simpler here. To many Jesus would simply say, “Come, follow me.” He called them – and us – to a purpose and that is to align our lives and purpose with his. Jesus isn’t at cross-purposes with himself. His calling to you and his calling to me will not result in conflict or division; it’s our human selfishness and sinfulness that does that. Rather, there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. If we find ourselves dividing and fighting one another we have veered away from God’s voice.
Paul gets practical. He names a number of characteristics of those who are tuned in to God’s voice and following it faithfully. Paul describes this as “walking in a manner worthy of the calling.” Here he offers no less than five ways to walk or live faithfully with respect to Christ and one another.
We are to live with:
Tolerance (forbearance) in love
Peace (bond of unity)
These traits “diligently preserve the unity of the Spirit and bind us together.” (v.3)
Rather than spend our time defining and describing each of those things, I want to do something a little different. So hold on to that list and we are going to add some other things to it from Colossians.
Chosen for Unity (Colossians 3:12-15)
In Colossians 3:12-15, Paul is delivering a very similar message, describing faithful behavior that demonstrates and seeks the unity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Here, instead of ‘calling’ he uses the language of being ‘chosen’.
“As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on….” (v.12) and then he lists another long list of characteristics and behaviors. In verse 15 he ties the chosen language back to the calling language saying, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.”
So here’s the list in Colossians of the traits we should ‘put on’ or wear:
Love (the perfect bond of unity)
Peace (our calling)
In fact, all of the traits in Ephesians are mentioned here in Colossians, so we have a pretty thorough list to look at. But here’s what I want to do. Instead of going through each one and defining it, I want to do a kind of self-reflection exercise with you. You will not be asked to share your answers, but I do challenge you to be honest with yourself and the Lord.
Caring for One Another in Love
Each of these passages and each of these traits are expressions of obedience to Christ that takes the form of caring for one another in love and results in binding us together in Christ.
I want to take that sentence and do some reflection with you.
Here’s the first part, given to us in these scriptures:
In Christ, God calls and chooses us
that we might be of one heart and one mind with Him
and in our mission and ministry to one another.
Think of someone with whom you have experienced a break in relationship. If they are sitting near you don’t turn and look at them! Just allow a name or face to come to mind. I’m going to pause for a moment as you think.
Now consider the traits we have listed. These are meant to demonstrate faithfulness to Christ, care for others, and a unity with God’s purpose and calling.
Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love, peace, thankfulness
Is there one of these that, in your NOT showing it, may have contributed to the break in relationship that came to your mind?
I’m not talking about whose fault it was or who started it. But can you identify one of these traits that you struggle with, whether in this one instance or perhaps on a regular basis? I’m going to just pause for a moment as you reflect.
Now, can you think back to a conversation or encounter with this person and imagine how things might have turned out differently if you were able to show that particular trait you identified? In other words, would your caring for the other person in love have changed anything?
It may be that it would not have changed anything. We ultimately can only take responsibility for our own behavior. But often our own behavior is more a part of the equation than we acknowledge. What if I had shown more compassion? Or thankfulness?
Are you still in the middle of the situation? Is the file still open? Consider what it would look like to re-engage with these traits. Paul IMPLORES believers to live out these traits. Can you imagine doing that?
And even if the door seems to have closed on whatever you thought of, each new day is an opportunity to live this out. I’ve said before that I like the image in Colossians of “putting on” these traits as if they are clothes. Just as you get dressed for the day, we are to “put on” these traits.
All this is God’s intent for us and it results in the kinds of bonds and community that God has designed for our blessing. That’s the purpose and the plan. What it looks like is our core value of CARE: that we seek the unity of the Holy Spirit by caring for one another in love… in humility, with gentleness, with peace, and so on.
Don’t set this aside when you leave today. Bookmark Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3. It would take less than two minutes to read them when you wake up and to pray, “Lord help me put these on today.” This is God’s desire for you and for me, for us as this community of faith. Amen.
Some Music Used
- You are My All in All
- Shout to the North
- By Our Love
- Blest Be the Tie/Holy Spirit
- Christian Hearts in Love United
- The Gospel Song (Sovereign Grace)
- Holy Spirit (Gettys)
- Postlude: We are One in the Spirit