There is no doubt that our culture desires community. This is why Facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest and other social media sites are so popular. We even put social in the name to emphasize how much we want community from them. The problem is that these sites bring connectivity to our lives, but not community. Those aren’t always equal. It is deceptive to the point that people think because they are connected and have 1,000 facebook friends, lots of twitter followers or instagram likes, they have community. They have connection, not necessarily community.
In Ephesians, Paul lays out what the church in Ephesus knew in their heads, but struggled to know and live out in their hearts. We easily do this with community. We know what it takes to have community, know we should have community, yet we struggle to live that out. Paul gives us 4 ways to maintain unity in relationships, whether that is a church, a missional community, a marriage or family. The interesting thing he says is not to create unity, simply maintain it (Eph. 4:3). It is given to us by Jesus through our relationship in him.
Because of this change in our lives, finding our identity in Jesus alone (Eph. 4:1), we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to maintain unity through:
- Humility. This is the basis of the Christian life. To follow Jesus, one must humble themselves and admit they are broken and that without Jesus, they continue this way. Relationships are destroyed because of pride. Pride elevates one person over another, elevates one agenda over another. Keeps people from serving each other. Pride keeps people from receiving help when needed. I can’t tell you how many times people have complained about their struggles and when I ask who they’ve asked for help from, they say “no one.” Pride.
- Gentleness. This is being caring in a relationship. Not berating someone, not bringing up history in a relationship, not reminding someone what they’ve done wrong in the past. This is caring for the other person, seeking their best, not yours. This gets into how you speak to someone. If you say something and immediately have to say, “I was just kidding” that’s sin. You weren’t kidding, there’s some truth in that statement.
- Patience. Community will require patience. People will let you down, intrude in your life. You can’t have a relationship and always get your way. I meet so many people who are alone and the reason is because they aren’t willing to give up what they want. Patience also requires you to allow people to grow and change. If Jesus is the basis of our relationships, then we believe He is powerful enough to not only save us and those we’re in community with, but also powerful enough to change them. Stop trying to change those around you, let Jesus do that through you.
- Love. Biblical love is not an emotion first. In our culture that’s all love is. This is why people tell me right before they sin, “You can’t choose who you love.” Biblically, you can. Love is an act of the will (a choice), followed by an emotion. One author said, “To love means you start loving a person and on the way to loving that person, you begin to feel that love.”
While these 4 things are incredibly basic and all of us know them. They are difficult to live out. If they are lived out, the gospel is seen clearly. Community is one of the most powerful pictures of the gospel because people in our culture do not stay in relationships long. Lasting in relationship, often is one of the best ways to show the gospel has a changed a group of people.