"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." - Ephesians 4:1-3 (NKJV)
Here in Ephesians 4, Paul begins to outline how to live in the concrete realities of life; following the guidelines of the Bible for His people in this world. Today, in society, we are called to live with love, in harmonizing relationships and in forbearance upon its disruption.
Understanding the primary component of our society, meaning its people, is complex but reducing them into two major categories may be helpful.
First, those who are in alliance with God and His Will and second, those who live without distinction. Each category seems to be in constant conflict, as the influx of one group tends to pose resistance through extremism.
To follow Christ and His commandments, is to unify people in a loving embrace, becomes harder in our society. The ways that are pleasing to God are somehow muddled and we find ourselves fumbling with questions like: “How do we facilitate acceptable norm and how can we maintain unity?”
Even in today's world, with its diversity and diversions, we are called for unity - uniting for GOD and forbearing each other for His Will.
ENGLISH DEFINITION: Forbearance (Merriam-Webster)
1: a refraining from the enforcement of something (such as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due.
2: the act of forbearing: patience.
3: the quality of being forbearing: leniency.
GREEK DEFINITION: Makrothumia is a Greek word often translated in the Authorized Version as ‘longsuffering’ or ‘patience’. The English version, longsuffering, which tends to fall out of use, but the dictionary definition is ‘bearing problems patiently’. For patience, there is another Greek word, hupomene, which means ‘the quality which does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial’ - it can mean remaining under the trial, whatever it might be, possibly hoping for better things. Makrothumia, on the other hand, relates to reactions of people. It comes from makran - far off - and thumos - fierceness or indignation. It is the opposite of having a ‘short fuse’. Where the indignant reaction is delayed for a long time, perhaps even permanently. Makrothumia is a noun, makrothumeo is a verb - to have long patience, makrothumos is an adverb— leniently, patiently.
Unifying characteristics of a diverse society.
Paul lists five characteristics of god-loving people:
1. Humility, 2. Gentleness, 3. Patience, 4. Mutual forbearance, and 5. Love.
Which of these do you lack? Look at them again: humility, gentleness, patience, mutual forbearance, and love. Don't think about anybody else. Everyone lacks one or more of those characteristics. Just think for yourself and if you fail to practice them in your relationship then repent of it.
Ask God to change you, to make you more like Jesus, so you can play your part in His Church, and our nation; resonate God's purpose for His Creation. Indeed, ask God to make you more like Him, functioning as designed, to be in a perfect union with the Holy Trinity. Each fulfilling our natural call for existing in simple relationships with each other and in Him.
UNITY IN TRINITY
Paul tells us this is the reality into which we've all been brought:
"There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." - Ephesians 4:4 (NKJV)
Notice this long list of ones centers around the THREE persons of the Trinity. For example, there's One Father, One Jesus Christ who heads His Church and The Holy Spirt that is the small inner voice, speaking to the humane compass in us. Ultimately there's only one family on earth, God with all of us in it.
Cohesive living is not only desired, but is quintessential for our very existence - being unified through HIM and in harmony with one another. Our relationship gleans its characteristic from our Creator. Even though the Godhead has three components, their collective union is found in God; The Father, Jesus as the Son and The Holy Spirit, purifying our body and spirit. When you think of it like that, you suddenly realize when someone disrupts harmony by their actions, they are damaging the unity of God’s family. What they're actually doing is denying the unity of the Godhead.
For example, the recent shootings in Las Vegas, clearly showed the disrespect of one man causing immense loss and pain to hundreds of people, affecting multitudes thereafter goes on to prove this point. One man’s action caused suffering to millions by disrupting their harmony and damaging the unity of God’s family.
As you look around our society today, you realize that we've been very successful at breaking down this unity. Though the unity of the Godhead isn't damaged, the way we apply ourselves usually does not convey it at all. And there goes our nation's witness to the world.
That's why Paul makes this plea in verse 3 to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You'd think the unity of the Spirit would be indestructible, yet we're told to maintain it. Why is that? Because we live in a fallen world where spiritual realities aren't always seen in the visible church. This means we have to work hard if we're to make the unity of our society a reality.
UNITY IN SOCIETY
The unity in our society is enriched and built up by the diversity of gifts of its people. If you look at the great variety of people, with diverse gifts and personality types in any given country, you might as well despair of ever reaching unity. There may be only one God, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Church, but our country itself is made up of a panoply of individuals, every one of us is different from all the rest. So how can we be unified from a mix like that?
Well, Paul says, it's not actually as bad as it looks.
“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” - Ephesians 4:7-8 (NKJV)
The differences you see, are often the result of the different things Christ has for us to do. Someone once compared our country to a jigsaw puzzle. Not only are the pieces different, but they each have sections that stick out or in that other pieces link with.
If you ever want to annoy someone who loves jigsaws, give them a large jigsaw puzzle with two or three pieces missing; it will drive them crazy! That's what the church is like, a jigsaw puzzle where every piece has a place. When one piece is missing, the big picture will forever be incomplete.
Our nation is built upon the foundation on God's Word. The founders left us guidelines based on solid Biblical principles. Therefore, each of these diversely gifted people is important to the very fabric of our nation, for maintaining an example of a forbearing people, united under ONE God and abiding by the constitution. That isn't to say that other people's gifts aren't important, but when it comes to our nation and managing crisis, achieving the unity that God desires, all these gifts are to be prized by His Church, through "We, the People".
CONCLUSION: Friends, we are all created by GOD, who is forbearing of our sins since the dawn of time. Even when we had the perfection in Eden, we fell prey to temptation. In our haste to find our own way, instead we found sin through our disobedience and doubt. Today, our society finds many reasons to create chaos and uncertainty, but let us remain calm, forbearing in His Word and for His sake. God bless you.
References: 1. Chris Appleby 2. Vine— Expository Dictionary Barclay— New Testament Words. Post concept and Editing by Jeffery D. Kooistra. (UPDATED)