--> “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Ephesians 4:1-16 is the paramount text on the “called out ones” (ecclesia). It is the Magna Carta of the Church. It begins and ends with unity, which is not the same as uniformity. In fact, unity amid great diversity is God’s desired intent. He loves diversity, but He also loves unity. This requires a common commitment to humility. The off-ramp that leads to Unityville is neither “doctrine” nor “agreement.” It’s humility. It is amazing how often we try to make adherence to doctrine the glue that binds us together, yet the result is always division over minutia. Our glue is not a creed or statement of faith, but a common humbling of ourselves.
Two humble people may not always agree, but if they are truly walking in humility, they will always get along, despite their differences. When each is more concerned for the betterment of the other, the two will live in harmony and achieve unity. When everyone strives to bless others, everyone is blessed.
Paul challenges us to live with humility, gentleness, patience, and tolerance. These are the qualities that lead to unity amid diversity. Notice what is not on the list: agreement over doctrine, common practice, church models, heritage, culture, or style.
Paul says we are to diligently guard the unity that is ours because of the same Holy Spirit that dwells within us. This is not always easy; in fact, it’s hard work. Markus Barth, in commenting on the verb being diligent says:
It is hardly possible to render exactly the urgency contained in the underlying Greek verb. Not only haste and passion, but a full effort of the whole man is meant, involving his will, sentiment, reason, physical strength, and total attitude.[i]
If we ever hope to attain to the “unity of the Spirit” that we are meant for, we must start from a place of humble submission to one another—especially with those who are different from us. Unity in diversity is a beautiful goal that we must press toward with all haste and urgency. It requires that we daily lift the interests of our brothers and sisters above our own.