As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (verses 1-6)
That’s Paul’s passionate exhortation. Although the English text says, “live a life worthy,” Paul, writing in Greek, uses the simple, graphic concept of walking. Step by step, one foot after another, it’s a moment-by-moment forward movement.
In the preceding three chapters Paul has laid out exquisite theology, viewing God’s redemptive purposes in choosing and reconciling us to himself by grace, then showing us the exalted glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, the reconciling power of the gospel, the divine plan in building his people together as one, and the undergirding depth and expansiveness of Christ’s love.
On the basis of all that, Paul says, “Walk worthily.” How? What does it look like? How do we position our feet one after the other?
Paul immediately launches into a roster of attitudes and behaviours, indicating that the style of our stride is to be that of Jesus himself. Humble. Gentle. Patient. Bearing with one another in love. All of it is played out amid our interactions with others. “Love one another as I have loved you,” Jesus had told his disciples on the night before the cross, having just humbled himself to wash their grimy feet. The towel around his waist that evening indicated the quality of his love. Now, Paul’s short list focuses on similar grace-filled dealings.
In it all he calls us to “unity,” indeed urging us to “make every effort” in that direction, implying that passionate energy and ongoing commitment will be required. But before the weight of impossible responsibility descends on our shoulders, take note that we are not called to create this unity, but rather to simply “keep” it, understanding it as a product of the Spirit himself.
What huge relief! How could we ever have managed the task of uniting ancient enemies like Jews and Gentiles, let alone addressing any of the multitude of divisions that spring up around gender and ethnicity and status and role, not to mention the unending flurry of hurt-filled personal slights and offenses?
The cross has paid the price. Jesus himself is our peace. And the Spirit applies that peace, creating a seven-fold unity that springs from one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
If our peace is rooted in the Triune God – having been won by Christ’s cross, put in place by the Spirit, and overseen by God our Father – how could we take the breaking of that peace lightly? How could we not “make every effort” to guard it, holding it tightly, carefully preserving this gift that has been given?
One step after another, the Spirit calls us to “walk worthily” in peace. May it be.
Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – so energize my stride that it may be in conformity to the very style of Jesus, keeping the rhythm of the Spirit’s peace, all to the honour of God my Father. Amen.
Reflect: Is there any place in your current experience where the unity of the Spirit is being stretched thin? What will it mean for you to “make every effort” to maintain that peace? What are the next steps?