I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the 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 all.
Mission statements are as popular as ever – and that’s no bad thing. Being able to sum up, in one or two sentences, who we are and what we are about helps us to keep focus and gives people a sense that everyone is pulling in the same direction. However, I don’t know of any church’s mission statement that says, ‘As God’s beloved children we will make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’, yet for Paul this was one of the most important things that members of Christ’s body should strive for.
It would seem, from the language Paul uses, that he was also fully aware of how difficult this is. He pleads with the church to make every effort, and to do so with humility, gentleness and patience – to bear one another in love. And why? Because of our oneness in Christ. In verses 4 – 6 he uses the word ‘one’ seven times – one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. This says to me that Paul cannot stress enough how important one-ness is for those who are one in Christ.
So how does this play out in the life of the Church today? At times it seems that we are further than ever from realising the vision that Paul had for the Church – although I hope this isn’t true. As the United Reformed Church we know only too well the effort it takes to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’. But Paul speaks to us as individuals too. He urges us to have the grace to recognise Christ in others, and with the Spirit’s help, so treat them as though each were part of us – which, of course, they are.
Holy God, undivided Trinity, who is above all and through all and in all. In the diversity of life and the complexities of living help us, as your chosen people, to live in unity with one another and by doing so, bring glory to your name, for the sake of Christ our Lord and Head. Amen
The Rev’d David Salsbury is Minister of Dyserth and Holywell and Training & Development Officer in the National Synod of Wales