November 13, 2022
A Call to Unity – Part 2
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
Ephesians 4: 1 - 6
Scripture: 
Topics: 

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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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Transcript

All right, let’s grab our Bibles and for the sake of time just open it to Ephesians four, verses one through six. And we will jump in our series on Ephesians, we’re in a beautiful passage on unity within the church. We started to look at it last week and we’re going to finish it this morning, God willing. It’s a call for unity, part two. I’ll read the text, you follow along, remain seated. Paul says, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. With all loneliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to 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.”
What an amazing passage in God’s word. If you were to drive a stretch of several hundred yards on a highway in Elmore County, Alabama, you’ll find three churches with three different names. But the story of these three churches is a sad one, and sorry one. The first church you’ll find along this road is a church called Harmony Baptist Church. But after a while there wasn’t too much harmony, and there was a split, and there was a division. And a group of people headed down the road and started another church, so as you travel along this road in Elmer County in Alabama, you’ll come to a second church. The first church Harmony Baptist church, the second church, New Harmony Baptist Church. But harmony didn’t last very long there either, and third church started out of the second church, which started out of the first church. As you come along that road, you’ll see Harmony Baptist Church and then you’ll see New Harmony Baptist Church, and finally you’ll see Greater Harmony Baptist Church.
It’s tragic, isn’t it? But as you travel that road in Elmore County in Alabama, you are reminded of the church’s repeated failure to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, something that Paul commands his church. You will be reminded of how easily you and I forget our profound oneness in Jesus Christ as believers. There’s one body and one baptism and one faith and one Lord and one spirit and one hope, and one father over all. You and I will be reminded that we need to give ourselves afresh to the work and the endeavor of protecting the unity that we already enjoy in Jesus Christ. The story of these three churches in Elmore County, Alabama is the sad story of too many churches, churches that are marked by division, churches that are marked by disagreement, churches that are marked by disharmony. And let me tell you when that happens, it’s monstrous, and it’s unacceptable.
Listen to these words by Thomas Brooks, the very readable Puritan. He says this, “It is a natural thing for a wolf to worry a lamb, but it is a monstrous and unnatural thing for a lamb to worry a lamb.” Isn’t that sad? It’s a striking analogy. Division is wrong because of our present, ongoing and future unity in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, before we come back to our text and expand it, if we do a kind of sweep across this ladder once again. In Ephesians four, verse three, Paul talks about unity in a possessive sense. He wants us to know that we already possess unity, we are already one. We don’t create unity, we maintain unity. Because that unity has been created by the reconciling work of Jesus, and that unity has been already made real by the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit and the life of those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ.
So in Ephesians four, three, there is unity in a possessive sense, it already exists, so we’ve got to keep it, protect it, enjoy it. Which brings us to another sense, the purpose of sense of Ephesians four, verse 13, scroll down in a chapter we’re working through, where Paul says he wants the body to indeed be equipped and edified till we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man. The Unity’s real, but our experience of it will unfold degree by degree by degree. And so you and I must purpose in our hearts to not only protect the unity that God has created in Christ Jesus, but to pursue it as a purpose. And make it more real in the life of the church in deeper and wider ways. And then there’s the prospective sense of unity.
In chapter one, verse 10, Paul says this about unity, there’s going to come a dispensation, an economy of God’s working, at the end of history, in the fullness of the times. And when that happens, when Jesus comes back at the end of history and the fullness of the times, God is going to gather together in one all things in Christ. And so there is going to come this perfect unity that we are seeking to express more widely and more deeply, but that’s going to be realized when Jesus comes. Here’s the point, the church’s unity is something to appreciate because it’s a fact, but the church’s unity is something to accentuate because it’s a reality that needs to be more realized. And then the unity of the church is something to be anticipated because it’s a promise.
So let’s come back to our text, Ephesians four, one to six. We notice that this is the tipping point in the book, that therefore signals that Paul is moving from doctrine to duty. From credenda to agenda, from indicative to imperative. He’s told us what God has done for us in Jesus Christ by grace. But now in union with Jesus Christ, here’s what we do in the light of what God has done for the glory of Jesus Christ. This is how indeed God is glorified in the church, chapter three, verse 21. We saw the walk in unity, and then we started to look at the way to unity. The walk in unity is verse one, let’s walk worthy of that calling. The way to unity is to express lowliness and gentleness and long-suffering, and bearing with one another. Let’s just stop because we didn’t cover that forethought, we looked at lowliness, gentleness, patience, but we didn’t look at forbearance.
Now it’s a cousin of patience, but it’s not a twin. It means to put up with, it means to absorb, to move on. It’s a great virtue in marriage, in ministry, in life, politics, industry. We need to be people who put up with a lot because in a fallen world you’re going to have to put up with a lot. Because people will indeed fall beneath your expectations, they won’t always deliver. And if you’re going to make a big deal of every small thing that bugs you, hurts you, bothers you, you’re not going to get very far along the road of life. Life, marriage, ministry, relationships require a lot of forbearance, where you just take it on the chin and get on with it. But you don’t get bogged down. Listen to me, don’t let every failure become a mortal sin. Don’t let every disappointment turn into a grand jury issue. In a fallen world, that’s a showstopper, it’s a miserable path to go down. Life, family, church requires patience and forbearance.
See an attitude of forbearance in love, that helps you put up with stuff so that stuff keeps moving forward. Forbearance allows you to make room for failure. It’s the glory of a man to overlook a fault, and that’s a good way to live. And you know what? It’s also a testimony to the fact that you trust God to change the person you’re trying to change, but it’s going very slowly. Jesus showed forbearance to his disciples. Remember in the upper room discourse, John 16, verse 12, “There’s many things I’d like to say right now, but you can’t bear it. It’s not the right time, you’re not ready for it. So I’m just going to, you know what, put up with this until you’re more mature. Maybe on the other side of the death, burial and resurrection and come into the Holy Spirit, we’ll get to some more stuff. But right now I’m going to forebear about the things that you can’t bear.” I love that, don’t you?
Remember what Jesus said even of the religious types of his day and the things about the nation that bothered him that were perverse? And he says in Matthew 17, verse 17, “How long will I bear this? How long will I put up with this?” Well, he put up with a lot and so should you and I. Let me show you something important, if you go to Colossians chapter three and verses 12 to 13, Paul makes a distinction between an issue that you should just forbear over and an issue you should seek forgiveness over. And you’ve got to make this distinction or you’re not going to be at a good place in life. If every small thing, every little thing, everything that annoys you, bothers you, upsets you, becomes a sin issue or a grand jury issue. Well, life’s going to be pretty miserable. So Paul says this, “Here’s what you need to do, bear with one another, suck it up, put up with it for the sake of harmony. And forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another.”
Now the word complaint in the Greek, is a word that carries the idea of something of moral weight. Not a complaint like, did you leave your trousers on the bedroom floor again? That’s one you’ll hear in our house a lot, but just little things, right? That’s not the complaint Paul’s talking about. Did you leave the lid off the toothpaste again? That’s not the stuff he’s talking about, that’s the stuff you forebear. He’s talking about stuff that’s a violation of God’s law, it’s a moral issue, a real complaint that needs to be addressed and forgiven. When I talk about forbearance and the Bible talks about forbearance, we are not talking about putting up with flagrant sin in your marriage, in life. We’re not talking about that, that needs to be addressed, repented off and fixed. But there’s a lot of stuff, idiosyncrasies, personality clashes, differences of opinion, that’s just the stuff you’ve got to put up with and agree to disagree and move on. And that helps the church.
When I was with our staff, it was Jason and myself and Andrew. We went to a weekender at Mark Dever’s church in Washington at Capitol Hill Baptist. And they had a lot of good statements, it was leaders speaking the leaders. And here’s a few of them that I wrote down, and there’s one I’m going to emphasize and move on. One of the things they said was this, “Move the church at a pace it can swallow,” that was good. Don’t run so far ahead of your church in leading it that they may mistake you for the enemy. Bring about change in a church in a manner and a pace it can swallow. Number two, here was another statement, this is really good, “Live with concessions so long as you’re headed north,” that’s very good. In your marriage, your business, church. Put up with some stuff, make way for some stuff. Live with some concessions, so long as the train is going in the right direction, because you’re making headway.
Another one was, “Evolution, not revolution.” That’s back to that idea of letting the church grow gently. But the one I liked the most was, “Be a shock absorber, not a wave maker.” That’s what Paul’s saying here to the Ephesians, be a shock absorber, suck it up put up with stuff. Learn to live with one another, don’t be a wave maker, don’t make an issue out of everything. Now before we leave this thought, did you notice verse three again, back to Ephesians four, the walk in unity, verse one and the way to unity, verse two, is loneliness, gentleness, long-suffering, bearing with one another. Notice endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Now we’ve said by way of introduction, we already have unity. You don’t need to go out and try and create it, you don’t need to manufacture it.
We already are one, every one of us are one in Jesus Christ today, every hour in Jesus Christ today. But we’ve got to work hard at keeping it, because given our fallenness, given our enemy who’s an accuser and likes to divide God’s people, you and I have got to have our antenna up and our eyes open to the fact, you know what, I’m going to work hard at making sure I’m in the right place with my brothers and sisters. I’m going to act humbly, I’m going to be patient, I’m going to forgive, I’m going to forbear. This is a word that means to be diligent, to be eager, to be active. Romans 14:19, “Pursue peace and the things that make for peace.” See, the unity of this spirit already exists because we’re baptized by the spirit into one body. The bond of peace already exists because of the reconciling work of Jesus Christ. But keeping it, enjoying it and maturing in it, that’s going to take work, it’s not automatic.
You know what, this church has enjoyed a lot of unity, for several years now. We’re known for being a welcoming, gracious, inviting church, let’s keep it that way and it’s going to take work. Don’t be weary in well doing, do what you can, do what you must to keep this unity as a witness to the world and it’s a blessing to God. What does Romans 12:19 say? “As much as depends on you,” not the other person. But you say, I’m the offended person, pastor. The text says as much as depends on you, offender or offended. “As much as depends on you, live with all men as peaceably as you can.” Love that, there’s a bit of realism there, sometimes reconciliation can’t happen because someone is stubborn and sinful and recalcitrant. But you and I, we got to work hard on our end to make it happen. What does that mean? You be the first to go and speak when no one’s speaking.
That means you be the first to apologize, concede, begin a conversation to move things to a better place. Be the first to give way, be the first to offer help to make things right. Endeavor, work hard at it. Got a question, then we’ll move to our last thought. Question, how did Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer die? He was a fairy character. If you read about Calvin or Luther or his wingly, Luther was rough around the edges. He was the battering ram that the Protestant reformation needed. And then you had the kind of the smoothness and the articulation of Calvin, the great area doubt theologian. So maybe your first thought, how did Luther die? I’ll bet you the Catholics martyred him, because given just how abrupt he was and strong he was, no doubt. They eventually got him and killed him.
No, he was guarded by the German princes and the Roman Catholic authorities never got their hands on Luther. You say then maybe he died of old age, that’s a fair guess but no. He died peacemaking. He died on his way to Eisleben, the town he grew up in because the church there was divided and there was a problem with the magistrate. And in the dead of winter against the advice of his wife, Carrie, Luther goes on horseback, gets caught in a snowstorm, rainstorm and ice storm. And gets the cold, gets the flu, gets pneumonia, and he dies in a rim, in Eisleben. That farry, abrupt, rude, reformer, died endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit, and the bond of peace. May God help us to be the same. Now let’s get to the last thought, the why of unity verses four through six, the why of unity.
There is one body and one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father, that’s why. Why are you divided when there’s so much oneness? So on the one hand unity is real, on the other hand, unity is work. But in verses four, five and six, Paul says unity is logical. There’s no reason to be divided when you’re this united. Can I say that again? There’s no reason to be divided when you’re this united. So let’s work through these seven aspects of unity. Some believe this may be an early Christian hymn, some believe it may be actually an early Christian confession that would’ve been repeated in churches as a liturgy. One other thing I’d have you notice, did you notice how involved the trinity is, Father, Son and Spirit. As Protestants, as Evangelicals we believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, can you explain it? No, because you can’t explain the mystery of the Godhead. We’ve got no parallel, no comparison. Don’t be getting an egg, don’t be getting a shamrock, it doesn’t work.
But God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are one but distinct. And you notice that they live in unity and diversity, they’re one and yet distinct and diverse. And they are the model for our own unity, they have created it and they’re the model of it. We read in verse six, we have one God and Father. We read in verse five, we have one Lord. And we read in verse four, we have one spirit. What a marvelous thing, all of the trinity is working for our unity. May we work to that end. Let’s move through these quickly, I’ll kind of hop, skip and jump, these deserve a deeper treatment than I’m going to give them. Let’s look at the seven ones of Ephesians four, the one body. I think this is a reference to the church universal, Paul’s addressing is certainly to a local church because the church universal finds an expression in any given moment in places and among assemblies of God’s people. Most of the New Testament is addressed to the local church, not the universal church.
But in this case I think we’re dealing with the universal church, the church that exists right now in heaven and on earth. All of God’s people from Pentecost forward. All who have been baptized by the one spirit into the one body, whatever their denominational label. If they have trusted Christ alone by faith alone because of the grace of God alone or living for the glory of God alone according to the word of God alone, they’re God’s people. Even if they may have different emphasis and differences, this is the one body. Can I put it another way? This is the body of Christ that exists across time and is found within every Christian denomination. It’s a wonderful thing to realize. We have our convictions and I certainly think there’s a place for denominations. Denominations are beneficial, they maintain doctrinal alliances, they are collective efforts in mission. But as long as we remember we’re all one family, when we share the one gospel and the one Lord Jesus. I forget who said it, there’s nothing wrong with denominational walls so long as we don’t put barbed wire on the top of them, it’s not bad.
Anybody heard of Harry Ironside, an old brethren teacher and writer and commentator? It’s a great story about him one day meeting a lady who asked him, because he tended not to emphasize denominations. And he asked her one day, “Mr. Ironside, what denomination are you?” And he replied, “Well, I belong to the same denomination as King David.” And she said, “Well, I didn’t realize King David had a denomination, what denomination is that?” And he got his Bible and he went to Psalm 119, verse 63 and he said, “David said, ‘I am a companion of all them that fear thee and keep thy precepts.’ I belong to that denomination. The denomination made up of God’s people who fear God, loved Christ and keep the word.” One body, one spirit. The book of Ephesians has a great emphasis on the Holy Spirit, have you noticed that? Paul will not let them settle for two thirds of God, he wants them to know the will of the Father. He wants them to know the work of the son. He wants them to know the witness of the spirit within.
Read the book of Ephesians and you’ll find Paul’s teaching on the ceiling of the spirit. Ephesians 1:13, the indwelling of the Spirit. Chapter two, verse 18, the grieving of the Spirit. Chapter four, verse 30, and the filling of the Spirit, 5:18. Now the one I think Paul’s focused on here is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When you go to chapter two, verse 18, we read, “For through him, we both have access by the Spirit to the Father.” Read in chapter two, verse 22, “In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. The spirit of God who indwells the church, indwells the Christian who makes up the church.” And that’s what unites us, which is a reminder by the way that unity is spiritual, it is not structural. Just because you can get a bunch of people in a room together doesn’t mean they’re united. Unity, biblical unity is from the inside out, not from the outside in. You don’t force it, you don’t manipulate it, it happens.
One hope, the one hope. What is that? Well, clearly that’s the living hope of first Peter one, verse three. Clearly that’s the blessed hope of Titus two, verse three. Paul talks about this hope in Ephesians one, verse 10, when Jesus comes and God’s going to bring everything and reconcile everything under Jesus. And I would believe in the millennial kingdom, but certainly we’d all agree in the eternal state, it’s all going to be reconciled. We’re all going to be one in an earth that is marked by righteousness. So when we read about this hope, we’re talking about the second coming of Jesus, the eternal state, eternal life. That would include resurrection, wouldn’t it, of our bodies. That would include perfection, that would include our works being rewarded. That would be glory after suffering, that would be meeting our departed loved ones. That would be a new earth and a new heaven marked by righteousness, so much to look forward to. Now, got a thing here for you. I’ll just be a little bit more practical and pastoral on this one.
If that’s true, that we are going to spend eternity together in heaven. Well, I think we need to work a little harder to stand together on earth. Wouldn’t you agree? The thought of spending eternity together should leave its mark on how we spend time together now and how we treat each other every day. Because we’re stuck with each other forever and ever. Now it’s going to be easier for sure when we’re glorified, dwell above with sin we love, glory to dwell below with sin we know, different story. All right? But I want the thought, when I’m even in the middle of an argument, theological on a secondary issue, or a peripheral issue, that’s important to me but maybe not as important as someone else and maybe not as important to God. I want to remind myself this person I’m talking to, and I hope graciously disagreeing with, I’m going to spend eternity with them forever, if they’ve got the basics of the gospel right.
And so I want to remind myself of that eternity and eternal bliss should help us make little of our differences because when we’re about 5 million years into eternity, those differences will look very little. Great story, tied into George Whitfield, one of the great evangelists of the church. He’s in a CH coach in those old days in Edinburgh, Scotland. And a lady belonging to another denomination gets into the CH coach, he takes one look, at second look he said, “Are you George Whitfield?” To which he replies, “Yes I am ma’am.” To which she says, “Oh, then let me get out of here,” because she disagreed with him, there’s things she didn’t like about him. And she was halfway out the door of the CH coach she was trying to get in, but having found Whitfield in, she was out.
He says, “Hold on a minute madam, before you go, let me ask you one question. Suppose you die and go to heaven, and then I die and go to heaven. When I come in, will you be getting out?” Isn’t that a good story? “When I get to heaven, you will get out of heaven?” Let that perspective… It won’t solve everything but it’ll help solve a lot of stuff. Help us be a little bit more respectful across our denominational lines, recognizing there’s one body. And there’s one spirit, and there’s one hope and there’s one Lord. You know who that is? That’s our precious Lord Jesus Christ, who according to chapter one, verse 22 to 23 is the head of the church. When you and I come and put our faith in him, we’re baptized by the spirit into the one body under him. And when we are in union with him, we’re in union with everyone else who’s in union with him. He’s our one Lord, don’t let that phrase roll off your tongue because a Christian in Ephesus could lose their life for saying that.
It’d be like some of our brothers in the Middle East, because curious meant, Lord, authority, ownership. Once a year every Roman citizen was asked to pinch some incense into an altar and say, Caesar is Lord. And Christians didn’t because Jesus is Lord. And they’re one around that banner and many of them lost their lives. It’s a similar thought, this common life in the Lord Jesus should bring about a commonality among us. It’s his name, it’s his blood, it’s his person, his love that holds us together. When I went to my first church in the United States, at the recommendation of Dr. John MacArthur, it was a bit of a mess. And John had told me that, but when I get on the inside, it was a little worse than he thought it was or said it was. And I felt like calling and say, John, I thought you loved me. But when I get on the inside, this is a church that was fractured, the leadership had left, we were attracting very few students from the Masters University.
And I said, “John, where do I start?” And he said, “Philip, if you’re going to create harmony between two pianos, do you harmonize one piano with the other piano? Do you tune one piano to another piano?” And I said, “No.” He said, “No, you tune them to a tuning fork. And once you tune one piano to the tuning fork, and tune the other piano to the tuning fork, those two pianos are in tune.” And he said, “Philip Jesus Christ is the tuning fork, preach him. Love him, live him, and watch the church gather around you.” And that’s what happened. One faith, most commentators believe this is a set of beliefs, this is the doctrines, the great doctrines of the church. Let me say something you need to grasp, it took me a while to get it. All doctrine is important, for you theologs out there hear me, all doctrine is important, but not all doctrine has the same importance. And there are what we call core beliefs, there are what we call fundamentals.
These would be the five solas of the reformation. These would be some of the great creeds of the church, Chalcedon and Nicaea. This would be the fundamentalist movement of the 20th century when Presbyterians and Baptists and Methodists got together, they differed on church government. They differed on the timing of the second coming, but they agreed every Christian must be Trinitarian. Every Christian must believe in the authority and errancy of God’s word. Every Christian must believe in the virgin birth, sinless life, bodily resurrection, atoning death and physical return of Jesus. Those were the fundamentals, and that’s where we find our unity. And that’s what Paul I think is driving out here. We’ve got one faith, the faith delivered to the saints. Titus 1:4, Jude three. Here’s a little footnote, unity has a theological basis by the way, that’s centered on a person. But our understanding of that person comes from the text of scripture. We don’t dream it up, we don’t draw it up, God has revealed it.
And if I’m going to believe in Jesus Christ, I got to believe certain things about Jesus Christ revealing the gospels and the epistles from him and his apostles. That’s the faith. And if someone doesn’t believe that, then we don’t have the one Lord and we don’t have the one body and we don’t have the one faith. There are limits to unity. I’m arguing for unity but there is a place for disunity over the big things, the fundamentals, the core beliefs, the gospel. Paul warns the church in Ephesus not to be blown about by every wind of doctrine. Paul warns the church in Galatia that there are other gospels, and there are people who come and preach those other gospels and they are not to receive them. They’re not the fellowship with them. It is better. All that I’ve said, I’m not taken away from and I’m not undermining, but I do want to qualify and balance this side. It is better to be divided by truth in the big sense of that word, than to be united in error.
You know my love for Adrian Rogers, he was part of the resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention back to orthodoxy and conservatism. He was on a committee in those days where the liberals and the conservatives were joking it out. And in one of these committees, the liberal lawyer took him aside because Rogers wasn’t budging on the big things, right? The authority of God’s word and errancy, dead if Jesus, all of that. And this lawyer took him aside and he said, “Adrian, if you don’t compromise, we’ll never get together.” I want you to hear what Adrian Rogers said. “I’m willing to compromise about many things, but not the word of God. So far as getting together is concerned, we don’t have to get together. The Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t have to exist. I don’t have to be the pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church, I don’t have to be loved, I don’t even have to live. But I will not compromise the word of God.” That’s the spirit here.
Two others, I’m just touching on them. One baptism, I think that’s water baptism, want to find my reasons, you can ask me later for the sake of time. But remember, water baptism was always an initiation into the visible and public church in the New Testament, and I think that’s what he’s dealing with here because he’s already mentioned one body, one spirit. He’s already addressed spirit baptism, I think he’s dealing with water baptism. If you are an unbaptized Christian, you don’t fit in the New Testament. Because there’s not an occasion you’ll find when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ, they’re not immediately baptized in water. The one Father, well, that’s the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is above us and through us and in us. He’s transcendent and imminent. He’s above us, through us and in us. He watches over us, works through us, walks beside us. That’s nice, isn’t it? That’s good.
All right, here’s the closing thought. Given all of that, given the givens, we have so much that unites us and we are united on the important things. The body of Christ, the Lordship of Christ, the one faith, baptism, Spirit, Father, these fundamental realities give us a strong basis for seeking strong unity among the pure church, the true church. There begun at Pentecost and is found across time in all denominations. To be divided is to say what the Father did, what the Son accomplished, and what the Spirit is doing is not enough. It’s not a shame, let’s not be party to that. In the temptation to squabble, to separate, to major on the miners. To alleviate the secondary to the primary, let’s never lose sight of our fundamental oneness, already a reality that we can realize and someday enjoy more fully. Let’s remember that oneness, let’s not get off the beaten track. Let’s remember there’s more unites us than divides us.
Let’s not be like the man in this story, he saw a man, seemed like about to fling himself off a bridge. So he ran up and he said, “Sir, don’t. Why are you trying to kill yourself?” The guy said, “Well, I’ve nothing to live for.” Well, he said, “Let me ask you a question before you jump, don’t you believe in God?” The man said, “Yes, I do.” He said, “What a coincidence, so do I. Are you a Jew or a Christian?” The guy said, “I’m a Christian.” The man said, “Well, so am I, what a coincidence. Protestant or Catholic?” Guy says Protestant. “What a coincidence, so am I. Anglican or Baptist? ‘Baptist.'” He said, “What a coincidence, so am I. Are you strict, particular or general Baptist?” The guy said, “I’m strict and particular,” the guy said, “So am I. Are you pre-millennial or A millennial?” The guy said, “I’m pre-millennial.” “What a coincidence. Pre-trib, post trib?” Guy says post-trib, guy pushed him off a bridge. And he said, “Die your heretic.”
Now we laugh. But isn’t that kind of the ridiculousness of what many of us get up to? Look at how much they had an agreement, but you know what, if you work hard enough at it, you’ll find something to disagree over. But we’re not meant to work hard at the things over which we disagree. Or maybe scripture not as clear as other doctrines, we’re to work hard at the things we agree on. One body, one spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father overall, Amen. Brothers, sisters, we are united, let’s keep the spirit of unity among us. Let’s work at peace for the one who is the prince of peace and dwell in us all. Father, thank you for the time this morning in the word, what a challenging passage of scripture. Help us to take it to heart. Help us to work hard at preserving a united witness to the world. Jesus told us this is the final apologetic, they will see how you love one another, and they’ll know that you’re my disciples. So help us to be marked by lowliness of heart, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance.
Help us remember there are heresies of the heart as much as there are heresies of the head. We may have our doctrine straight and our attitudes be all wrong. Help us to strike a good balance. And Lord, in a fractured world with kingdoms warring against kingdoms, may the church be a well watered garden. An oasis in this old world where people look from a distance or come through the doors of our buildings and they marvel at Black and white Europeans, Asians, people from the Middle East. Managers, workers, men and women, young and old, loving each other, blinded by their differences because they’re so set on what unites them in Jesus Christ. Help us, oh God, forgive us if we’ve been party to division unnecessary. Help us indeed to hear the words of Jesus. Blessed are the peace makers. Help us to be shock absorbers, not wave makers. For the glory of God’s kingdom, Amen.