Our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ is a clear picture of how we are walking in our new identity. It is one of the over-arching messages of Ephesians chapter 4 as Paul begins to describe what a “new identity” life or walk looks like.
Since we are “one body, one Spirit, one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” (Eph 4:4-6), let’s “be diligent to preserve that unity” (Eph 4:3). Let’s do that by practicing our spiritual gifts for the benefit of the entire body. In that way, we will “build up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man or woman” (Eph 4:12-13).
What Paul is saying here is, “Let’s grow up together. Let’s press on to maturity together. What does this look like in a church setting; in a community of believers?
Arrogant and self-righteous believers – who are not practicing the humility and unity of Ephesians chapter 4 – will look down on those who are less mature. They will state, or at least imply, that once you reach some righteous standard, once you reach some level of adherence to our rules, you can be accepted as equals; you can be part of our tribe. This kind of thinking is exclusive, divisive, and the opposite of grace.
And it rejects what God has already called and created. He called all of us who embrace the gospel message into His family. In Him, by Him, and through Him, we are equals in the family God created. As the hymn says, “We all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross.”
So what does a more inclusive, grace-oriented, and accepting unity look like? As purveyors of grace, we humbly say, “Come as you are. All are welcome here. There is no rule-adherence or righteous standard for joining our group and being part of our lives.” Does that mean we have no standard such that we welcome sinful practices? No, not at all. There are righteous standards aplenty in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. But how can we benefit the whole body if we use the standards to block relationships from growing?
Grace does not say there is no standard for obedience. Grace says, “Let’s proceed to the standard together! Let’s grow together!” We are back to the word “together”. And we will investigate more of what this “together” looks like next time.