Summary: We are urged to live a life worthy of our calling, which means above all else seeking unity in and building up the body of Christ. Unity is especially important in our community in the wake of the Chattanooga shootings.
We continue this week our look at the letter to the young Christian Church in Ephesus. Even as our thoughts are centered on the way our community has been rocked in recent days, there is here a message relevant to all that is on our minds this morning. Isn’t it wonderful and amazing how God speaks through his Words so appropriately in just the way we need it? Even in the midst of this week’s shocking events, God is speaking to our community this morning in these words. In light of all that has happened this week, there is an important message here.
Last week, we studied the opening of the letter, and the powerful words about our identity in Christ and all that Christ has accomplished for each of us. The whole first half of the letter, the first three chapters, are filled with these beautiful words about God’s work through Jesus Christ. This morning, we are in the opening of the second half of the letter to the Ephesians, which focuses on how we should live as a result of Christ’s work for us. When you take into consideration the fact that our identity in Christ brings with it a call to serve God in Christ Jesus as we talked about last week, then what is laid out here in the opening to the second half of this letter is a pretty big deal. There is a lot here that is worthy of careful consideration, but what I want to focus on the word “one” and the call to unity that is so central to this passage.
There is one thing I have come to believe rather strongly in my brief time as a minister of the gospel, and that where I want us to begin this morning. It is this: there is no fight worth fighting that is worth tearing the church apart. None. Not a single one. No fight worth fighting that is worth tearing apart the body of Christ. Essentially, that is the message at the heart of our Scripture reading this morning. Listen again beginning in verse 4: “You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.” I don’t know if any of you were counting or not, but if you were, you would’ve noticed that the word “one” is used seven times in those two sentences. Seven times! Do you think we are supposed to work together? Do you think we are supposed to be united as one? Of course we are! But are we in actuality? Of course not!
As a matter of fact, I don’t think the world has ever been as divided as it is now, and Christians in particular. I think we are about as opposite from “one” as you can get while still carrying the same name. We fight and argue about just about everything, and when it looks like things aren’t going to go “our” way, then our response is to divide, to separate ourselves from the people with whom we disagree. Our response is to dis-unite. Why? Why do we do this? Why, when Christ has already given all of himself for us do we have to tear him apart again and again and again?
On Thursday of this week, something terrible happened in our city. It was the kind of attack that you hear about on the news, but it’s always somewhere else; New York, Boston, Washington DC. Not here. Not Chattanooga. But this time, we were the news, it was here. In fact, it started less than two miles from this very spot. We know the story; it’s one that has played out in our news bulletins in recent years more times than we care to count. Someone, believing they are right and others are wrong, lashes out at innocent people who in their mind represent the wrong. Lives are lost, five soldiers. People are injured. All because one person thinks they are better, thinks they are right and others wrong. A young extremist has a selfish, single-minded agenda, and that person believes the only way to achieve his aim is to do away with anyone or anything that he perceives to stand in his way.
To be sure, most people in this world would never even consider such acts as we saw from the young man here in Chattanooga this week. But even as we condemn the horrible actions of this one man here, we need to understand that we in our own ways have at times put our own selfish motivations above all else. Rather than seeking union with our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, friends, and enemies alike, we have instead selfishly pursued our personal agendas. And when we do this, it is always to the detriment of our relationships with God and with one another. When we are only concerned for ourselves, we tear apart the body of Christ.