Monday, August 20, 2007

Unity and Community

As I continue to read through the book of Ephesians at least once in its entirety each day, I am continuously looking for something new God may be speaking to me about. As I read through the book again tonight, I noticed a couple of things running like a winding stream through Paul's letter: community and unity.

Paul, even though he was in chains for the Gospel in a different location than the Philippians, considered himself to be a part of their community with them. he also wrote to them, exhorting and encouraging them to stand in unity.

Consider the following verses:

...your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now... (1:4)

...all of you share in God's grace with me... (7)

for I know that through your prayers... what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. (1:19)

...it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again... (1:24,25,26)

...I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel... (1:27)

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ... then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (2:1,2)

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. (2:19)

...Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh (3:2,3)

Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. (3:17-18)

But our citizenship is in heaven. (3:20)

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! (3:20-4:1)

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel... (4:2-3)

...it was good of you to share in my troubles...you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. (4:14,16)

There's a lot of give and take going on. The Philippian church supporting Paul from afar... Paul praying for and encouraging them in turn. Sending "loyal yokefellows" back and forth between them with the latest news from one another. Sharing in struggles and victories - sufferings and joy. Sounds like a good long distance relationship to me.

How do we put what Paul was telling the Philippians into practice in our churches today? How do we support one another like Paul and the church at Philippi? Does it mean merely showing up each Sunday or Wednesday and just enjoying the company of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Does it mean serving on committees and teaching classes? Perhaps leading a small group? Mentoring someone? Sharing in the work of evangelism with each other to grow the family?

Probably all of the above.

One thing I do know: it takes more than just showing up and warming a pew every once in awhile to sing a few songs and listen to the preacher preach his latest and greatest sermon. It takes getting involved, getting messy sometimes and loving one another with, "...the affection of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:8).

Perhaps, knowing my own struggles with getting involved at church, I should take a little of my own advice...

1 comment:

Esther said...

beautiful. this post struck me at this point in my life bc I've been meditating on exactly that- community & unity. I was expressing to a friend that I was concerned about a conflict going on between a respectable director and another lay minister. It highly involves my life, so I was a bit disturbed. My friend emphasized the need for unity and mentioned Jesus' prayer in John 17:23... how will the world know the love of the Father if we are not one?

again, beautiful post.