4 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4: 1-3 NRSVA
Hidden away, alongside a small stream, we find the humble remains of an old mill in North Wales. Once upon a time this place was a home and workplace for a small community who worked together to survive. Abandoned long ago, the remains still stand, secluded and unseen from the main road, unnoticed and forgotten, testimony to industries past. The fact that we can walk safely amongst these disregarded buildings still standing strong is a testament to the builders who built skilfully upon strong foundations.
In Ephesians 4 Paul urges us to build lives and church communities that characterised by unity. For him there are five foundational virtues that underly our unity: humility, gentleness, patience, tolerant mutuality and love. These virtues aren't necessarily valued in our culture today, but to Paul these qualities of character underpin the lives of believers in community together. Paul writes to remind us of how important our relationships really are and to urge us and other readers to guard the unity we share.
Elsewhere in the New Testament Paul shares his experiences in some of the early church communities, alluding to behaviours such as pride, selfishness and conceit that so quickly undermine unity and relational breakdown (Phil 2: 1-4). As we look to Easter and think upon Jesus' life we recognise that Jesus taught and practiced these virtues. We know him to be humble, the Son of God incarnate, born as a babe to live on earth, amongst the ordinary folk and destined to die unjustly, with criminals, hung on a cross. We recognise in his life his incredible gentleness and patience, his forbearance and mutual regard for us in our fragile humanity expressed in his perfect love.
We may wonder how we can ever cultivate these virtues in our lives, then struggle to be better and condemn ourselves each time we falter. But Jesus has made the way. He has dealt with our weaknesses at the cross and and offers his grace as a gift to us. We must accept that 'each of us was (is) given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift' and take hold of it (Ephesians 4: 7). It is not our limits or weaknesses that define our potential, it is Christ's grace.
Father God, we thank you that You desire unity and love for us in our relationships and community. We ask that we would be humble, gentle, patient, mutually respectful and loving in our walk with Christ. Where we fail we do ask that we would in faith find that Your grace is sufficient for us, and that Your power is made perfect in our weakness. May our foundations be deep and sturdy, that our unity and steadfastness in Christ would be our testimony. May you bless us, our family, friends and church community with loving unity. Amen.
9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12: 9