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hope for churches in stress

United in Spirit

Sometimes, we have to laugh (or grimace) at our frailty. We come to church to learn about love and on the way home criticize someone. We get along well with some persons and are repeatedly irked at others. In spite of our good intentions, we get tangled up in misunderstanding and conflict.

By design, the community of faith is a diverse and incompatible group of people. In Ephesians, Paul reminds the Gentiles that they were once separated and alienated, strangers to Christ (2:11-12). He states bluntly that a “wall of hostility” separated them from the Jews (2:14). But even such great animosity and contempt is broken down by Christ Jesus (2:14-16).

Paul describes transition from hostility to peace in a striking manner. Christ creates “one new man,” that is, a community of formerly estranged people; then, joined “in one body,” these people are reconciled to God (2:16).

Relating to one another in the new community—which, make no mistake, is in our less-then-perfect local church—is crucial to a deepening relationship with God. As “living stones” we lose our rough edges when we bump against one another and learn, amid the altercations, to “maintain the unity of the Spirit” (4:1-16; 1 Peter 2:5).

It takes intentionality, with determination, “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to main the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1-3). And to manage this, we need to be empowered by the Spirit and trained by church leaders (3:15-19; 4:11-16).

One mended relationship at a time, a local faith community can become “a holy dwelling place of God in the Spirit,” a church that exudes the aroma of Christ as a foretaste of coming splendor, a church destined to be “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing . . . holy and without blemish” (2:22; 5:27; 2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

This post continues a series, "Sketches of the Spirit." To advance to the next post, click on the title, "Gifted by the Spirit." To go to the beginning of the series, click on "Wind."

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