On a scratch sheet of paper or on your computer, take a moment and, in your own words, define the following terms:
“Bearing in love”
“Unity in the Spirit”
Most of us have grown up our whole lives hearing these words, but we are unable to define them—to think so clearly about what these words mean. This is an important practice, especially for this passage, as it is the lynchpin for the whole book of Ephesians.
Although most books cannot be summed up by a single verse, Ephesians 4:3 gets to the heart of the issue—preserving unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. As stated in previous Jumpstarts, Paul was writing because of conflict between Jews and Gentiles in God’s Church. He has spent three chapters correcting their theology, now it’s time to correct their actions.
Paul begins chapter 4 verse 1 with “I urge you…” (parakaleō in the Greek). Most English translations put this verb later for readability, but we get a sense of the importance of what comes next. Three times in this single sentence Paul uses a “kaleō” rooted word—“I call you to live consistently with your calling with which God called you.” This is a forceful reminder. Paul, by his own “calling/urging,” is reiterating God’s salvation call as it relates to the present quarrel. So how do they/we overcome conflict?
I once heard a good definition for humility—a right perspective of who I am in light of who God is. Humility is not worthlessness (“I’m just terrible”), that devalues the fact that we are created in God’s Image. Instead, humility recognizes God’s created order and our place in it. Paul said in chapter 2 that all people are united in sin and only saved by Christ. How can any of us be prideful when we bring nothing to the table? “Jews, you cannot save yourselves by your good works (Eph 2:8–9)—walk in humility.” “Gentiles, you aren’t more special than the Jews because you are now included (Eph 2:12–13)—walk in humility.”
Gentleness reminds me of Provers 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” Like approaching a skittish animal, conflict is best handled with soft voices and slow movements.
Like several of these attributes, patience is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5). I think its definition is found right in the passage, “bearing with one another in love.” Patience is the practice of forbearance—it does not dismiss sin, but it chooses the appropriate time to address it. Or, if it cannot be addressed, it simply lays the transgression at the feet of the Father knowing that one day the Righteous Judge will right every wrong.
Peace is not the absence of conflict. In a world where sin still reigns conflict is unavoidable. In fact, the more trust you place in a person, the more opportunity you give them to hurt you deeply. And because all people are sinners, they will. Conflict will happen. Peace is dealing with conflict in a God-honoring way.
All of this, is the work of maintaining unity. It requires you to die to yourself over and over. The only way we can do this is by God’s Spirit as He reminds us of God’s truth and our place in God’s game plan. Quarreling has no place in God’s Church or among God’s People. It often starts with a bad perspective; the perspective Paul has spent three chapters trying to correct. But when conflict arises, Ephesians 4 is the answer.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate