Summary: Be humble, gentle, patient & loving.Make every effort to keep the unity (do unity)
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
You may have heard the joke
Plato said to do is to be
Aristotle said to be is to do
Sinatra said do-be-do-be-do (look up the tune, Strangers in the Night).
Paul here suggests followers of Jesus are motivated by God's work in our lives to be and to do.
First, the be-ing
Be humble, gentle, patient & loving
I would think of humility, gentleness, patience and love as actions-and they are (see Paul's comments on each in Romans 12). But in this context Paul refers to each as qualities of being. Our society has become focused on doing and too little on being. We work to get good evaluations in school, then seek promotion at work, then acquire the symbols of success, vehicles, and homes, possessions, and prestige. We nurture the behaviors that lead to these acquisitions and, in the process, often neglect the qualities of character that supersede and sometimes contravene such acquisitions. I have actually heard people argue that humility and gentleness, patience and love are not virtues in this success-driven society. They can prevent you from achieving your goals, and instead we should pursue and reward boldness and strength, competition and hardness. It seems to me the Bible teaches a different understanding of what defines strength.
By Jesus' definition, a person who is hardened to others, who is unable to be 'touched by the infirmities of others' is weak. A person who stores up for him or herself treasures on earth, which moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, is foolish. A person who sacrifices relationships with others in order to promote himself is evil. The biblical perspective of character seems to contradict what many people are teaching today. In fact, it seems to contradict what many people in the church teach their children.
Good character is difficult. The ancient virtues of humility and gentleness, patience and love are expression of great strength. This is the kind of strength I want to have. I may have the ability to hurt or dominate another. The greatest strength is demonstrated when I choose to do otherwise. Every time I make that choice, I become more like Jesus; I acquire more of the character of Christ.
Make every effort to keep the unity (do unity)
In this context, Paul states the ontological statement of the being of the Church, that we are one, just as God is one. But Paul also focuses on the practical exhortation that unity only takes place with effort. we are to be humble and gentle and loving, but we are to do unity. Maybe, in a sense, unity is the outworking of the character qualities of gentleness, humility and love. But unity is not automatic. The internal qualities of good character do not always result in unity in our relationships. We have to work, to strive toward unity. This is the work of every follower of Jesus. Therefore we might say the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faith, and self control. The work of the Spirit is unity and peaceful relationships. For this reason, the peacemakers shall be called the children of God. This requires wisdom.