“You can do hard things!”
That’s one of the phrases we use regularly to encourage and motivate our kids to do things…
1) they don’t want to do,
2) they don’t think they can do, and/or
3) they tend to give up on too easily.
Ephesians 4 begins with Paul’s more eloquent version of “you can do hard things!” No, he doesn’t say it verbatim, but the point is essentially the same. In chapters 1-3, Paul has spilled quite a bit of ink reminding the Ephesians of how their salvation has reconciled them first and foremost to God but also to one another.
And the “one anothers” that they have been reconciled to are people that aren’t entirely like them. The church of Ephesus began with a combination of Jewish and Gentile Christians–individuals from different backgrounds and experiences that, historically, didn’t have much in common. Nevertheless, through their mutual faith in Christ, they had been reconciled to one another as “fellow heirs” and “members of the same body” (3:6). In short, the gospel had called them to unity.
Unity sounds like a good idea, but it doesn’t always come easy. Though they had been declared united, it would take some time for them to function in unity, but they could do hard things! So Paul urges them to pursue unity, which meant growing in “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (4:2).
2,000 years later and the church is still learning to walk in unity. We still need to grow in humility and gentleness. We still need to exhibit a lot of patience. We still have to bear with one another–sometimes painfully and perseveringly–in love. But we can do hard things! And it’s as we pursue unity with one another–especially with people that aren’t exactly like us–that the gathering power of the gospel is highlighted for the world to see.