Summary: Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians the importance of preserving the unity of the church.
A TRANSFORMED LIFE: PRESERVES THE UNITY
In the late 1800¡¦s there were two deacons in a small Baptist church in Mayfield, KY. These two deacons didn¡¦t get along and they always opposed each other in any decision related to the church. On one particular Sunday, one deacon put up a small wooden peg in the back wall so the minister could hang up his hat. When the other deacon discovered the peg, he was outraged that he had not been consulted. People in the church took sides and eventually there was a spilt. To this day, they say you can find in Mayfield, KY the Anti-Peg Baptist Church.
One of the saddest things that can happen in a church is when people begin to fight against each other instead of working together. Yet it happens all the time. History is full of sad stories about Christians fighting among themselves. Let me share one that I recently heard about.
Tradition claims that Jerusalem¡¦s Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built over the cave where Christ was buried. In July 2002 the church became the scene of ugly fighting between the monks who run it. It turns out that Ethiopian and Coptic monks have been arguing over the rooftop of the church for centuries. In 1752 the Ottoman Sultan issued an edict declaring which parts of the church belong to each of six different Christian groups.
The rooftop had been controlled by the Ethiopians, but they lost control to the Coptic monks when they were hit by a disease epidemic in the 1800¡¦s. Then in the 1970¡¦s the Ethiopians regained control when the Coptic monks were absent for a short period. The Ethiopians have been squatting there ever since with at least one monk always remaining on the roof to assert their rights. But in response to this, a Coptic monk has also been living on the roof to maintain the Coptic claim to the church¡¦s roof.
Thus, in July 2002, when the Coptic monk on the roof moved his chair into the shade where the Ethiopian monk was sitting, harsh words led to pushing and shoving and then to an all-out brawl. 11 monks were injured, including one who was taken to the hospital unconscious. Amazingly, all this took place in a church that is supposedly built on the same location of Jesus¡¦ tomb.
When the church is divided it produces some very tragic results. On the other hand, when the church is unified it unleashes a power that can hardly be stopped.
In the book of Ephesians, more than any of Paul¡¦s other letters, he calls the church to be unified. Paul mentions the unity of the church 18 times in Ephesians. If you read through the entire book you¡¦ll begin to think Paul is repeating himself. And you¡¦d be right. He is. Both Paul and Jesus agree on this: unity in the church is not just a good thing. Unity is essential.
Moments before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed for the church that he knew would be established after his death and resurrection. He didn¡¦t pray for large buildings. He didn¡¦t pray for ministry programs or administrative finesse or creative worship. He asked for only one thing: ¡§I pray that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.¡¨ If we¡¦re going to be the kind of people God intends, then we need to take this to heart. I¡¦d like to explore this today by exploring Ephesians 4:1-6. Follow along with me as I read this passage. (Read)
In verse 1 Paul urges every person who claims Jesus as the Lord and Forgiver of their lives to live in a particular manner. We¡¦re to ¡§live a life worthy of the calling you have received.¡¨ In other words, our conduct is to bring honor to Christ in all that we do. Do you know why living in a manner worthy of our calling is so important? Because the greatest cause of unbelief in the world is not the theory of evolution, it¡¦s not postmodernism and it¡¦s not secularism. The greatest cause of unbelief in the world is the poor testimony of those who profess to be Christ-followers. Far too often we who preach love in reality practice hate. And far too often we who proclaim unity are divided over the most trivial issues.
All the while the world looks on. People are amazed at what we believe and then they¡¦re scandalized by the way we act. Bertrand Russell, the great atheist philosopher, once said that if Christians practiced what they believed they would change the world. Ghandi said he would love to become a Christian. He was just waiting to meet someone who sincerely lived out what Jesus taught.