November 6, 2022
A Call to Unity – Part 1
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ephesians 4: 1 - 6

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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.

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Well, let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ephesians 4:1-6. Ephesians 4, verses 1 to 6. I’m going to begin a message I’ll finish next Sunday morning called A Call For Unity. A Call For Unity. God wants his church to be one. Didn’t he pray that in John 17? “I pray that they might be one as you and I are one, father.” The true church of Jesus Christ is one, and expresses that oneness in unity and community and life together. And you know what, that is something we need to work at. We need, according to this text, to endeavor to keep that unity.
It’s not always easy. You know that old poem, right? To dwell above with saints we love, that will be glory. To dwell below with saints we know, that’s a different story. We’re not perfected yet. And that means that we will hurt each other, we will misread each other, we will misunderstand each other. And that’s going to take a spirit of unity and forgiveness and patience and gentleness towards each other. Exactly what Paul argues here. So let’s stand. Ephesians 4:1-6. Let’s begin a two-part message in exposition of this wonderful, wonderful section of God’s word.
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. With all lowness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is above all and through all and in you all. Amen.”
You may be seated. A call for unity. Ephesians 4:1-6. I want to speak today the subject of Christian unity, a vastly important subject. And as we do, I’m reminded of the conversation between two old Quakers. The one said to the other, “Sometimes I think everybody in the world is a little off, a bit off except for me and thee. And sometimes I wonder about thee.”
I like it, but as we laugh, the joke is on us because we’re all prone to think like that. Quaker, we are right on and everybody else is a little off. Our wife’s a little off, our husband’s a little off. We tend to think we are right and everyone a little off. We marvel at the blindness of others and not seeing it our way. We’re prone to think we’re right, but the problem is the people that we think are wrong think we are wrong and they’re right. The argument between who is right and who is wrong is a right problem. And one of the biggest challenges in life is to work through differences to a place of agreement.
The fact is we are different, different in race and place and fears. Different in background, experience, and perspective. And because that’s true, those differences can lead to conflicts. People seeing eye to eye as a rare site in this world. Now, while seeing eye to eye is a rare sight, the Lord Jesus is looking for that kind of unity in his church. Unity of agreement, oneness, purpose, passion perspective. Remember how Paul put it to the Philippines in Philippines 1:27? “I pray that you would be of one mind and one spirit striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
That ought to describe every church. One mind, one spirit, all rowing in the same direction for the furtherance of the gospel. The church should always be an oasis of unity in a world riddled by and wounded by this unity. Last week when we were looking at that great prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3:14-21, we quoted one where he reminded us that the greatest blessing in the world is not to have your prayer answered but to be an answer to prayer.
And you know what? As we come to this passage and Paul encourages us to keep the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace, let’s be an answer to prayer. Jesus’ prayer. Because he prayed in John 17 verse 11 and verse 21 to 23. “Father, I pray that they might be one just as you and I are one.” Jesus prays for the unity of his church. That they might live together with one passion and one purpose and one perspective. And by the way, as we saw earlier in the book of Ephesians, Jesus not only prays for that, Jesus died to accomplish that.
If you go to chapter two verses 12 to 16, you’ll see that he died to reconcile us to God and to each other. Paul talks about two alienations in the book of Ephesians. The fact that you and I, apart from new birth by natural birth are separated from God by our sin. And then that sin that separates us from God when we express it, separates us from each other, causes nations to war, husbands and wives to divorce, friendships to fracture.
Jesus died to remove that double alienation and replace it with double reconciliation. Through his cross work, he has bridged the gap between God and man and brought God and man together. And then through the gospel he helps us to see that we are one in union with Jesus Christ. You and I who are on union with Jesus Christ are in union with everyone else who’s in union with Jesus Christ. We’re just one big family. So Jesus prays for unity because he died to establish that unity.
And so let’s turn to Ephesians 4:1-6, where Paul encourages us to answer Jesus’ prayer. Where Paul encourages us to be aware of the unity already established through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Paul’s not calling us, by the way, to create unity. Paul’s encouraging us to recognize that we are one in Jesus Christ and live that reality out when there are pressures pulling us apart. Although we’ve got various backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, we are united. We are at peace and we need to keep that redemptive reality before every thought and action towards each other.
So here we are, Ephesians 4:1-6. Look at verse one. “I,” Paul speaking, “therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, urge you, exhort you, call you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” Notice verse one of chapter four. It’s the tipping point and the turning point of this letter. After presenting theological and gospel explications, in the first three chapters, Paul now moves in chapters four through six to some practical implications and applications of the gospel.
What we have got here is a bit like what we got in Romans 12 verse one. Therefore, in the light of God’s mercies, up to that point, Paul has explained man’s fallenness, God’s redemption in Jesus Christ and our justification and union with Christ. And he says, therefore, in the light of all of that mercy, you ought to do this and you ought to be that. That’s what’s going on here. We’re moving from doctrine to jury, from exposition to exhortation, from indicative to imperative, from credenda to agenda. Paul’s going to tell them how to live after telling them why they have life in Jesus Christ.
In a real sense, what’s going on? If you go back to chapter three verse 21, notice, “To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations.” In a real sense, what’s going on from this point forward? We are at a tipping point. It’s like the seesaw, so to speak, has fallen on the other side. You don’t see seesaws much more in children’s playgrounds. I think they think it’s too dangerous. They’re always taking the fun out of life. I remember when our girls were small, we had a little park near our home and we had a seesaw and they used to be on it and go up and down.
And then I used to give them a little bit of exhilaration by having one of them or two of them on the other end. And then I would take my big lumbering load of a body and put it on the other end and they’d be bouncing off their seat. And sometimes I was tempted really to give it a good jolt and send them flying through the air, but that was only a thought in my head. I never followed through. But it was always fun. Seesaws are fun. And Ephesians four, the seesaw has tipped from doctrine to duty. From creed to conduct, from cregenda to agenda.
And now we’re being told how God gets glory in the church. So let’s look at this passage under three headings. We’ll see how far we can get. Certainly we’ll take next Sunday morning to exhaust it all. The walking in unity, verse one. The way to unity, verses two and three. And the why of unity verses four through six. The walking in unity, the way to unity, and the why of unity. Let’s look at the walking in unity. As the book pivots, Paul reminds us that he’s in prison and he’s a prisoner of the Lord. We noted that. Why doesn’t he say, “I’m a prisoner of Caesar”? “I’m a prisoner of Roman authorities.”
He doesn’t because he brings a providential perspective, the right thing about his life because providence affects every aspect of our lives. Romans 8:28, he wrote it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “All things work together for good.” And Paul’s very much aware of that even in prison, under house arrest in Rome, “This is for my good. The Lord’s at work here more than Caesar. This is the Lord’s plan for me more than it’s Caesar’s plan for me.” Great perspective to bring the life by the way.
You’ll also remember back in chapter three verse one where he describes himself as a prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles. He ties his imprisonment to the benefit of the Ephesians and the Gentiles of the Roman Empire. In fact, in chapter three, verse 13, what does he say? “Therefore, I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is for your glory.” See, Paul, according to 2 Timothy 1 verses 11 to 12 was an apostle to the Gentiles and he set out to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and he set out to remind them that now in this dispensation of the church, they have equal access to God.
Those who are separated from the covenants from the commonwealth of Israel have been brought near and he wants them to know that in the gospel they have full rights. And that kind of preaching brought about the animosity of the Jewish community and certainly what we know as the Judaizers. And so Paul’s life was trouble because of that reality. So here’s the point. There’s more in that little statement, “I’m a prisoner of the Lord.” Paul’s implying as he mentioned earlier, that the unity that they’re enjoying in Jesus, Jew and Gentile, one new society, one new man, that cost him. It cost Jesus’ life and it cost Paul his freedom to promote and protect and further unity among Jew and Gentile in the church.
Just a little thought. Remind yourself that what we’re about to learn is going to cost or it should cost. If you and I are going to keep the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace, it’s going to cost us time and effort. If we’re going to be a close-knit community of Christians here at Kindred Community Church, it’s going to cost time. We need to be together on the Lord’s day. We need to listen to one another. We need to introduce one another to one another. We need to be in a small group. We need to be at the men’s meetings and the women’s meetings so that together we grow. That’s going to take time and effort.
We’re going to have to put a priority on fellowship. Unity costs time and effort. Unity costs preferences. See, this unity often comes over differences of opinion which are underwritten by certain personal preferences. Think about the worship wars. The older generation like this and the younger generation like that, and it brings about disunity. Well, if we’re going to have unity, if we’re going to enjoy what’s already a reality, we need to prefer one another. Think about the other person, what’s good for them, what would bless them, which means you’re going to have to surrender your own preferences. That’s the cost of unity. Unity costs. Costs time and effort, costs preferences, and sometimes it costs friends and family.
Think about the issue of church discipline, which is for the unity and purity of the church. Because of unrepentant, someone is unrepentant and they’re a bad apple in the barrel and it’s affecting the unity and purity of the church. And so the elders, along with the church, move that person out. Imagine that’s a husband and you’re his wife. Imagine that’s a wife and you’re her husband. Imagine that’s your child and you’re their parent. At that point, is blood going to be thicker than water or is the blood of Jesus and what’s good for the church going to be of primary importance? Can you imagine in that situation protecting the unity and the purity of the church and it affects your family relationship? Which one takes priority? Unity’s costly. That’s my point.
But disunity is even more costly. Disunity dishonors Christ, hurts Christians, paralyzes the church and gets it off mission and gives the world an excuse not to believe the reality of the gospel. So notice next beseech, I beseech you to walk word of the calling. Paul has taught them, Paul has prayed for them, and now he appeals to them and he appeals that they would walk worthy of their calling. What does that mean, to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called? Is that the call to Jesus? Is that the gospel invitation? Yes, but much, much more. This call is more than the call to Jesus Christ’s salvation, what theologians call the effectual call.
Now, this involves God’s will. This involves discipleship demands, this involves Christian obligation. What we have here is what Paul will talk about and Ephesians 5. We need to redeem the time by discerning what the will of God is and once we discern it, do it. See God’s got a will for you. God’s got a calling on your life.
Now, there’s some particularities to that. My calling was to the ministry of the word. But I’m speaking here and I think Paul’s speaking here about the general call. 2 Timothy 1 verse 9, “Called to holiness.” 1 Peter 2 verse 21, “Call to suffer.” 1 Corinthians 7:15, “Call to peace.” Ephesians 1 verse 18, “Call to hope.” Philippians 3:14, “Call to heaven.” 1 Peter 5:10, “Call to glory.” And then in 1 Corinthians 1 verse 9, “Call to fellowship.” All of that’s there. You need to walk worthy of the calling to which you were called.
Now here’s the point, make it a little practical. Did you know that Christians are called the called ones? Is that how you self-describe yourself, “I’m a called one”? Because that’s what you’re called in Romans 1:6, 1 Corinthians 1 verse 24. And in Jude 2, remember what Paul says about Christians, “Not many are called from the rich among us and the wealthy and the noble among us.” Jude 2 talks about called in Christ Jesus. We are called ones. So let that settle.
A lot of people today trying to find themselves, aren’t they? A lot of people kind of meandering through life. “Who am I? What am I? Why am I here? What I ought to be doing?” That should not be you or me. We know why we’re here. We’re called to a calling and we know what we ought to be and how we ought to live. Christians don’t meander or dilly dolly through life. Christians don’t spend their time wondering what life is about or what they are to do with their lives. They get up in the morning with a purpose and a passion in mind and they hear the trumpet call of God’s call. It rings in their ears in the office, on the playground, in the car, in the home, in the business world, wherever they are, they have a calling that Paul will go on to explain here.
Listen to these words from Archibald Brown, who was the successor of Spurgeon. “A man who does not feel he is called to do anything will succeed in doing nothing in particular. The force of a man’s character is, in great measure, to be found in the strength of his conviction that he’s being called of God to do what he undertakes. It is the first grand essential for service. Let a man be only persuaded that he is called of God to go and do a particular thing and what can stop him?”
Love that. That’s the way I’m seeking to live and I trust you’re seeking to live and want to live. I’m not getting up in the morning making my mind up why I’m here, who I am. Tony Evans in a book on purpose, talks about a man who visited the doctor one day in excruciating pain. The doctor asked him, “Where does it hurt?” And the guy said, “All over, head to toe. I’ve just got peeing from morning to nighttime.” So the doctor told him to touch his shoulder. The man touched his shoulder and cried out in pain. Next the doctor told him to touch his forehead and as he did, his head swung back. He was experiencing pain.
The doctor told him to touch his knee. The man touched his knee and winched. He said, “Doctor, everywhere I touch, I’m in pain.” So after a few more moments of diagnosis, the doctor said, “You know what? I know what your problem is. You have a dislocated finger.” Here’s what Tony Evans says. Here’s what Tony Evans says. We may laugh at the man’s ridiculous situation, but many of us do the same thing in a different way. We feel like everything in our lives is wrong, yet in fact just one thing is wrong and that one thing affects everything. This one thing is that many of us are living a life without purpose. We are simply going through the motions, existing day by day weared down by the emptiness of a life without meaning.
That ought not to be you or me. Let us live worthy of the calling to which we were called. Now, Paul talks about to walk. It’s just another way of speaking about lifestyle, conduct or practice. We’ll come to this word many times in the second half of the letter. Paul says, “I want you to ship your life around a gospel lifestyle. I want you to practice your faith. I want you to reflect the doctrine we taught in chapter one, two, and three.”
The word worthy is a Greek word axios from which we get an English word axiom, all right? Something that’s true on both sides. It speaks of bringing up the other end of a beam. It speaks of equiliberalism, it speaks of balance and suitability. In other words, it’s what Paul’s saying by using that word, walk worthy, live a life worthy. He’s talking about a life properly proportioned and beautifully balanced between belief and behavior, faith in Jesus and works for Jesus. Credenda, theology. Agenda, practice. He wants them to be balanced. That’s why we’ve got this tipping point.
Someone described a good sermon as answering the question what, then answering the question so what, then answering the question, now what. Okay, what’s the truth? I need to believe. Oh, there it is. So what? How does that affect my life? Now what do I need to do in understanding what I should do in the light of what God has taught me to do? That’s all going on in this beautiful balance. Good preaching, by the way, young man is exposition and execution.
So many preachers spend so much time on the what and not the so what? And then I what? HB Charles gave us a great statement the other day, says his wife chastises him often with this little phrase, “Why do you have to go around the corner to cross the street? Well, you’re spending a lot of time to get to there. Let’s get to there as quickly as possible.” Balance. Someone said that Jonathan Edwards theology was all application and his application was all theology.
When it comes to the gospel in word and deed, let us live it out in equal parts. I like the story, I heard it years ago, came back to my mind of the pastor with a PhD in theology and the doctor with an MD. They had the same name and they shared office space in the same building. So that created a bit of confusion when people come in. And so the girl on the front desk would often be asked for Dr. So-and-so. She would always reply, “Do you want Dr, So-and-So who preaches or do you want Dr. So-and-So who practices?”
Now that may be an option in an office, but it’s not an option in the church. You got to practice what you preach. That’s Paul’s argument. Let’s move on. This is where we’ll spend a few minutes and then pick this up next Sunday morning. The walk in unity, and now we’ve got the way of unity. He says, “I want you to walk worthy of the calling.” Now, one of the things we’re called to is to live in unity. That’s what chapter 4 verses 1 to 16 is all about. Living out the unity created in the cross. And growing up in unity and maturity through spiritual gifts.
This whole chapter is about unity. And so if we’re going to walk worthy of the gospel, we’ve got to strike this balance. Jesus has united us to himself and Jesus has united us to each other regardless of our skin color, our economic background, our perspectives, whatever that is, we’re now one in Jesus and here’s how that’s lived out. And it’s not going to be lived out without certain values or certain virtues. It can’t be lived out unless we’re willing to be humble and gentle and patient and making allowances for each other. That’s what it’s going to take. So let’s look at the way of unity.
Over in Romans 14 verse 19. Paul encourages us to pursue unity. I’ll read it. “Therefore, let us pursue the things which make for peace.” I love to take that verse, just put it right over Ephesians 4 because he outlines four things here, there are others, but he outlines four things that make for peace, that allow harmony to exist and unity to be expressed. Number one, lowliness. I’m reading from the new King James, lowliness. It’s another word for humble. It’s the opposite of pride and we need it. Why? Because if you delve into disunity and disagreement and fractured friendships and fellowship, you usually find that pride is at the bottom of it.
Somebody thought they were better than somebody else. They were arrogant. They didn’t move or budge. They’re right and everybody else are wrong. That’s deadly. Proverbs 13:10 says, “By pride comes nothing but strife.” If you’re an arrogant man, God help your wife and your children and your friends and your employees. And we can reverse that not just a problem for men, but since men are in leadership, it’s a real problem. Paul says, “No, the virtue that we need to pursue and exemplify is humility, a lowly spirit.”
And you know what, he’s writing to the Ephesians. He’s writing to a predominantly Greek gentile congregation and you say, “Pastor, is that significant?” Only to this degree that if you read the background of the Bible and you read about Greek culture, the Greeks hated the idea of humility. It was not a Greek virtue, it was a Christian virtue. It was the gospel and the incarnation and humility of the Lord Jesus that introduced this idea of loneliness. The one who left the glories of heaven for a manger. The one who added humanity to his deity and served us in sacrifice and his life on the cross.
Now, the Greeks thought that to be slavish and ignoble. The Greeks liked self-assurance. The Greeks liked self-assertion. They did not like humility. In fact, one of their philosophers said this concerning humility, “It should be the first on the list of characteristics to be avoided.” And yet it’s the first in Paul’s list to be embraced. You want to live a life worthy of the Lord Jesus, who himself was what? Lowly. Matthew 11, verse 29, “Who emptied himself and took the lowly place and came in the likeness of man in the form of a servant.”
Listen, what does humility do? It puts needs and concerns of others first. Humility puts a worth and a value on others. Humility serves and sacrifices. Humility is happy to wait to be vindicated. Can I ask you a simple question? Do you think if we lived like that, would our families be more harmonious? Would our churches be more united? Would our neighborhoods have less conflict? Absolutely. Paul says in Acts 20 verse 19, “Serving the Lord with all humility.” When my dad turned 80, he’s not 89, he’ll be here on Friday, hopefully next Sunday with us, our middle daughter Laura asked him for a pearl of wisdom.
Said, “Grande, you’ve lived 80 years. Hopefully you’ve learned something along the way. Can you teach us anything?” It was a bit of a joke. And he replied, humorously said. “Well, there used to be an old Irish brethren evangelist called Frank Knox, and I think this is wise. This is something I’ve tried to live by. Frank Knox used to say, ‘Go slow, keep low, and don’t blow.'” Called the vita spirit of humility. Take your place at the foot of the cross making others more important than yourself just like the Lord Jesus.
Gentleness, close cousin to humility, right? Look at verse 2, “With all loneliness and gentleness.” It says in 2 Timothy 2 verse 24, “The servant of the Lord is to be gentle.” I don’t know about you. This doesn’t come easily to me. And I certainly know that we could do more of it in our homes and in our churches and in our culture. Gentleness. You see, broken people and broken relationships benefit greatly from gentleness. You got to handle broken things carefully, don’t you? Gently, wisely. Think about Galatians 6 verse 1. When you see a brother overtaken in a fault, when a brother falls flat on his face spiritually. When he’s down and captured by sin, when he’s overtaken by a fault.
And maybe by the way, that fault he’s overtaken by is a fault that’s hurt you. What does Paul say? “I want you to restore that brother.” The word restore there means to set straight a broken bone. Anybody had a dislocated bone? I’ve had a dislocated shoulder. It’s agony. In fact, I remember falling off a tree and dislocating my shoulder with a hairline crack. And remember the doctor saying, you’d been better breaking it. Hairline fractures and dislocations are ugly. Paul uses that word. And you know what? That day when I was in the doctor’s office and he was messing around with my dislocated shoulder, I’m glad he acted gently because broken things need gentleness.
And Paul said, “You need to restore your brother in a spirit of meekness, knowing that you yourself could be tempted.” The word there, meek is the same word, gentle, kind. You know what this word means, by the way? Lowness and gentleness, meekness? Mild spirited and self-controlled. Ooh, that’s interesting because the Greek culture and the American culture, “Don’t tread on me.” That kind of spirit of, “I can do it, get out of my way.” Which is good in one thing in a way and bad in many, many ways. It breeds this idea in ancient Greek culture and modern American culture, meekness is weakness.
When’s the last time somebody promoted meekness? But Paul’s promoting it because meekness is not weakness. In fact, this word means self-control. It was used of a colt, a young horse that had been broken and made useful, broken and then saddled and bridled. And then the power of that animal is under control. A meek horse is a really powerful animal. I don’t know if you watched the Breeders Cup yesterday, but you see these horses, I mean just magnificent animals, powerful, but under bridled and saddle, broken, useful to their owners.
That’s the word that Paul uses. And let’s be honest, when it comes to conflict, disunity, fracturing of friendships, you’ll usually find involved in not strong emotions that weren’t controlled. We’ve all got strong emotions, we’ve all got opinions that are precious to us and important to us. I get that. Nothing wrong with that so long as that can be controlled. So long as that’s expressed in a gentle, meek manner, strength under control. See, people who can control strong emotions help others control strong emotions and that’s helpful to unity.
Can you imagine a home where nobody controls their emotions? A workplace where nobody controls their emotions? Gentleness, diffuses, explosive situations. Proverbs 15:1. You know it, but I’ll remind you of it because you probably forgot it. “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” The church in Galatia had been savaged by Christians who didn’t control their emotions or limit their expressions. And Paul says, “I hear you’re biting and devouring one another.” Now he’s taking that image from the animal world. “I hear you’re acting like wild animals. Where’s the meekness? Where is your emotions being bridled by the gospel and what’s good for other people and the unity of the church?”
Listen to these words by Derek Tidball. He takes that image. “Gentleness is a strong quality. We mistake it too easily for spinelessness.” The word is used of a horse which had been broken in. It describes the need for our characters to be sensitive to the control of God’s touch on the reigns so that all that drive and energy and zeal we can muster can be channeled to good effect. The Bible’s not asking you not to be strong, not to be a man of strong convictions or to be clear in your direction. The Bible says encourage and make sure that’s under control.
Far and passion are a good thing. Far and a hearth is warming and a good thing, on the living room floor burns the house down. Passions are good as long as they’re controlled and fenced. He goes on, “Without that control, our zeal can be as useless and destructive as an untamed horse. We may bolt all over the place knocking over fences and knocking down people and no use to the master.” That’s very good. I was back in Belfast a couple of years ago and grabbed coffee with an old friend of mine. We grew up in the same neighborhood, kind of rough neighborhood, blue collar.
We grew up during the troubles when a lot of stuff was going on. We ended up working together in an aerospace engineering company. This guy’s name is George McKim. He’s now a Pentecostal pastor in North Belfast. He’s a good brother. When I first met him, I didn’t know his story. He was a gentle soul. He was so sweet unlike me. I says, “George, you just too nice brother.” Such a sweet guy, mild mannered always seemed to be under control. Always even. We called him Gentle George. Gentle George McKim.
You know what’s really interesting about that story? He, two years earlier had got out of prison. He was a terrorist on the Protestant side of the troubles in Northern Isles and part of the Alster Volunteer Force. He was a man of violence actually, until he met Jesus Christ. And Jesus took that colt, that wild animal and broke him and tempered him until he became a soft soul. Gentle George McKim, ex-terrorist, ex man of violence. Same with Paul. Go to 1 Timothy, right, “I was once before a blood steamer and a violent man.”
Don’t you love that? Don’t you want more of that? Don’t we need more of that gentleness” lives that are termed by the love of Jesus and the grace of God. Okay, finally, I’ll get this done in a couple of minutes. Long-suffering, we’ll pick this up next week. Don’t miss it. Let your friends know about it. This is long-suffering, which means what? To suffer long. To be willing to suffer long. In the Greek it’s to have a long fuse. It takes a while before you ignite or implode. It means patience, stickability, enduring in attitude.
And that’s important. You would say, “Pastor, how does that fed into the issue of unity?” Well, it allows someone to endure until things are better. Because you see, we live in a fallen world. We are an imperfect church. We’re not yet perfect. That requires Jesus to come back. Until that happens, you can be sure we’re going to stand on each other’s foot. We’re going to rub each other up the wrong way. We’re going to poke our finger into a brother or sister’s eye. We’re going to hurt them. We’re going to grieve them. And we need to work through that. You can’t be up and out of here the first thing that hurts you or annoys you, that’ll never work. Because you’ll be up and out of here, you’ll go to another church. It’ll happen there, you’ll be up and out of there and you’ll be a gypsy the rest of your life.
No, you know what’s best? Stay where you are. Work through the problem and who’ll help you do that? Patience. A spirit of endurance. Patience doesn’t give up on problems or people. Colossians 1:11, Paul prays that God’s mighty power would be given to them for all patience. That word mighty power, I can speak of the miracles Jesus did. I can speak of the plagues of the book of Exodus. It can speak of God’s mighty works within creation. God’s mighty power for what purpose? The doing of miracles? No, allowing you and me to be patient with one another. Because it’s not going to take all the power you can muster to be patient. It’s going to take all the power of God. Given our fallenness and our propensity to hurt each other, we’re going to need buckets and buckets of patience.
And it’s there and we can have it because Galatians 5:22 tells us that one of the fruits of the spirit is patience. And since unity is an outworking of the spirit who baptizes us all into one body, the unity of the spirit requires the fruit of the spirit, patience. All right, this is the end here with a story. Charles Simeon, I don’t know if you’ve read anything of his life. I have have enjoyed it. Interesting man. He was a beachhead of evangelical doctrine in the Church of England many, many years ago. Ministered at Holy Trinity in Cambridge. Faced a lot of opposition. He was locked out of his church several times, but he weathered all of that. Became a rallying point for evangelicals. But he was a single man and he stayed single and he was rather quirky.
That doesn’t mean if you’re single, you’re always quirky. But if you spend a lot of time with yourself, you’ll end up being quirky. So even if you’re not married, make sure you’re in the company of old bunch of other people. And Charles Simmons got a little quirky and he had his own fastidious ways of doing things that rubbed people up the wrong way. And one day he went to Henry Van, a pastor friend, 12 miles away for lunch. He had a couple of daughters and they spent lunch together and Charles Simeon went home. And no sooner was he out the driveway when the girls started complaining about him and said, “Dad, he’s annoying. He’s prickly, pompous.”
And their father said, “Girls go into the backyard and pick me one of our peaches.” To which they replied, “Dad, it’s early summer. The peaches aren’t ripe. They’re green and unripe.” To which their father replied. “Well, my dear, if it’s green now, we can wait. A little more sun and a few more showers and the peach will be ripe and sweet. And so it is with Mr. Simeon.” Love that. “So it is with Mr. Simeon.” Give God time. Give the grace of God room to sweeten them and ripen a Christ-like character in that young minister’s life.
Father, thank you for our time in the word. What a challenging passage. We want to be, as a church, an oasis of unity in a world of disunity. Help us to live a balanced life. Help us not to be theological tadpoles with big heads and small bodies. Help us to balance what we know to be true with how we live in truth. Help us to apply what we know. Help us to live what we believe. Lord, thank you for this calling. Thank you that we have purpose in life, which is very enriching. And we want to live life down to the last drop.
With David Brenard we say, “Lord, help us not to linger on our way to heaven.” And Lord, we just pray for this unity that you have prayed for and the unity that you have established in the cross. Help us to keep it, to treasure it, to preserve it by being humble, by being gentle, and by being very patient with each other. We thank you, you’re impatient with us. And may we give that gift to others. Now, as we come to the Lord’s table, we’ll pray that just what we have talked about would just spill over into our giving of thanks for the reconciliation we enjoy in Jesus Christ. Amen.