날짜: 2018년 9월 30일
제목: 하나됨을 지키는 길
올리브연합감리교회 김배선 목사
20180930 Sunday worship Sermon
“The way to keep unity” (Ephesians 4:1-6)
A famous writer, Mark Twain used to say,
“I put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so I put in a bird, pig and goat. They too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then I put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist; soon there was not a living thing left…”
This illustrates with humor how little the Christians of Mark Twain’s time, more than a century ago, valued being united as one body.
I think that this still reflects the reality of many churches today.
Therefore, I’d like to talk about what God wants from us as a church through today’s text.
To better understand today’s scriptures, I’d like to briefly explain the background of this text.
Primarily, Ephesians is a book on what it is to be a church.
Chapter 1 through 3 provides a dogmatic explanation of what a church is.
In Chapter 1, Paul teaches that the church was God’s predestined event.
That is, the church was not accidentally formed, but was a community planned even before the creation.
This is the theme of Chapter 1.
In Chapter 2, Paul teaches that the church is a community of reconciliation and peace.
It explains that the essence of the church is tearing down the wall between Jews and Gentiles, and uniting Jews and Gentiles as a community of reconciliation.
In Chapter 3, Paul mentions the amazing blessing that people like us who are Gentiles could now enjoy just like the Israelites.
The word emphasized here is “together.”
In Jesus Christ, Gentiles become members of one body which shares the promise of Jesus Christ.
This is the theme of Chapter 3.
Next in Chapter 4 through 6, Paul talks about how to live our lives in order to keep the unity of the church made into one by Jesus Christ.
Verse 1 starts with “I, therefore.”
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you.” (verse 1)
Paul writes this letter in prison, but urges them “to live in a way that is worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”
He explains what the calling is in verse 3.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (verse 3)
Paul tells us to make an effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.
One of the important missions of the church is to demonstrate the exemplary unity of the church.
That is because if the church fails to become a community bound in peace or to achieve true reconciliation in fellowship, it would not be able to deliver the message of peace and reconciliation to the world.
Yes, before we proclaim to the world the message of reconciliation, we must achieve the model of unity.
That’s why the scripture tells us that we must make an effort to keep what the Holy Spirit binds as one.
Paul knows that it is not easy, so urges us to “make an effort.”
He then presents the basis of such unity in verses 4 through 6.
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (verses 4-6)
What is the basis of such oneness?
In short, we all believe in and serve one God, who called us with one goal.
Despite the differences in cultures, generations, races, or backgrounds, the reason why Christians can become one is because we are gathered under one flag of Jesus Christ.
This is the conclusion in verse 5 and 6.
However, what is more important is how we can achieve oneness in our lives.
Today’s scripture describes some attributes that allow us to keep the unity.
In verse 2 Paul says,
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (verse 2)
Here we find four attributes: humbleness, gentleness, patience, and forbearance.
When our relationship is broken, it is very likely that one or more of these characteristics is missing in the relationship.
It can be a lack of humbleness, gentleness, patience, or forbearance, which causes disputes and conflicts in the church.
If we desire to build unity in our community, we should work to develop these four attributes in our lives.
We should be humble, gentle, and patient, and bear with each other in love.
I hope and pray that we are growing in these characteristics as we have fellowship with each other in Christ.
First of all, humbleness is the first attribute to keep unity.
Arrogance is the opposite of humbleness.
The Bible shows that arrogance is the first sign of being away from God, and this was the first sin found in the Bible.
In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve took the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and ate it, the serpent said to them,
“when you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
It was arrogance that the serpent used to cause them to fall.
“You will be like God. You will know good and evil just like God…”
But the consequence created a broken relationship with God.
Arrogance in us leads us to a broken relationship with God.
To the contrary, 1 Peter 5: 5 says,
“In the same way, all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Literally speaking, “to clothe yourselves with humility” means to clothe yourselves with “a towel of humility.”
Apostle Peter must have been reminded of a particular scene in his mind when he was writing this verse.
The scene comes from John 13:
”Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:4-5)
Whenever Peter was preaching about humbleness, he must have recollected the time when Jesus was washing his disciples’ feet.
Jesus showed an example of what true humbleness is by his washing the disciples’ feet.
Therefore, Peter urges us to clothe ourselves with the towel of humility.
I hope and pray that we can be clothed with humility.
I hope we can grow more humble like Jesus by kneeling in front of God and serving each other.
The second attribute to keep unity is gentleness.
Gentleness is often associated with an easy-going or weak-willed person.
However, in the Bible, gentleness is far from being weak or submissive; rather, it is being under God’s control even though we have a strong and boiling emotion.
The Greek word for gentleness is “Prautés” and this word is used to indicate well-trained or disciplined animals.
It is a state of being under the control of God, even though you have strength and power.
When we have more people with gentleness in our church, we can keep peace and unity because they follow the will of God.
On the contrary, if we easily lose our temper and become angry and upset with small matters, this indicates that God is not fully in control of us.
As a result, the unity of church would become more difficult to keep.
In Matthew 11, Jesus said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt 11: 28-30)
While the world teaches us to have and use power for happiness, Jesus teaches us the opposite.
Jesus teaches us that we need to restrain our power and learn His gentleness, which will bring us peace and rest.
I hope and pray Jesus’ words will be realized in our lives by His grace.
The third attribute we need to keep the unity is patience.
In 1 Timothy 1: 16, Paul says,
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
This means that we should first experience and be touched by the immense patience of Jesus for us.
Then, we can show patience to others.
To participate in God’s patience, we first have to taste the grace of God’s patience.
I hope and pray that we’ll all become an instrument of peace wherever we go with the patience that God first showed for us in our lives.
The last attribute is bearing one another in love.
This is the most essential characteristic to keep unity in church.
These four attributes are not separate; they are related to one another and also sequential.
In other words, those who are humble can be gentle.
Then those who are gentle can be patient.
And those who are patient can bear others in love, which is the highest level in these attributes.
Therefore, love is the most important attribute in making every effort to keep the unity and peace.
Bearing with one another in love means more than just overlooking others’ faults; rather, this means to forgive one another in love.
The Bible says “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4: 8) and “love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12).
When unity and peace of our community or our relationships are in jeopardy, we can easily find people uncovering others’ weaknesses and wrongs and finding faults with one another.
When we criticize each other instead of covering over a multitude of sins, we grow the culture of criticism instead of unity.
I believe that the culture the Bible teaches is not the culture of judging others but the culture of forgiveness, respect, encouragement, love and blessing.
I hope that is the kind of culture we build in our Olive church.
Without it, we cannot keep the unity.
I hope that we all together can cultivate the culture of forgiving, encouraging, understanding, loving and blessing one another in our church.
Nonetheless, you may sometimes think to yourself, “I don’t think I can do that. I don’t have such love towards that person. I don’t want to forgive that person with love.”
Then, how can we love one another?
We cannot do it with the love we have.
We can do it with the sacrificing love that Jesus showed on the cross.
So, we need to always ask ourselves if our love has come from God and depends on God, and seek the love of Jesus from God.
I’d like to conclude my sermon with the story of Pastor Dave Gibbons who established and is doing successful ministry at New Song Church in California.
His home was peaceful and happy until his father cheated on his mother.
He remembered those days as follows:
I remember the night.
It was the night my dad left my mom and me.
A few months before, I found one card underneath the car seat while washing my dad’s car.
In spite of mom’s suspicion, dad had denied that he was seeing another woman.
But what I found was a Valentine card a woman sent.
I went into my room, locked the door and cried.
It happened when I was 15.
Since then, I stopped talking to my dad.
Since then, mom fell to drinking and often didn’t come home.
Every time she didn’t come home, my brothers and I cried in our own rooms.
One day, while I was at my college dorm, mom got hit by a drunken driver and passed away.
I was full of hatred and anger.
When I was a sophomore, while walking on the football field, I felt like God was talking to me.
“You ought to love your dad.”
“I don’t have any feeling for my dad. I mean it.”
“I don’t have any feeling for him.”
“Dave, the important thing is not your feeling. Love is dedication. Jesus Christ didn’t die on a cross because of some emotion. He wished to avoid it if possible, but He carried the cross due to His dedication to you. You ought to dedicate yourself to your dad.”
Days later, I called my dad and said I wanted to visit him on a Christmas Day.
I met him and his new wife.
I talked to him watching his eyes.
“Dad, I’m sorry. I’ve never been a good son to you. Please forgive me.”
Then, my dad started crying.
“Dave, please forgive me.”
After that, I still didn’t have any special feeling toward my dad.
A few years later when I was ministering in Thailand, I called my dad.
He said that he was diagnosed with leukemia.
I visited him in a hospital in Arizona.
When I saw my father, I hugged him and said I loved him.
I told him I now had ample feelings for him.
Dad, who had left church a long time ago, asked me to buy him a Bible.
So I did and when I saw him weeks later, he told me:
“I finished reading the New Testament. God told me that I have been away from Him for too long.’”
A few months later dad passed away.
I am certain that he reconciled with God.
And it was a blessing that my dad and I have reconciled.
Let’s remember love is not a feeling but is a dedication.
I hope that we all dedicate ourselves to love others, imitating Jesus Christ, even if we do not have a feeling of love for them.
We cannot trust our feelings, because feelings will one day dry up.
But efforts of loving others will surely bear fruits one day.
If God acted the way He felt, He would not have forgiven any of us.
But God didn’t do that.
He dedicated himself to us.
Even when we do not have feelings of love inside us, if we practice acts of love, one day God will melt our heart and give us peace and reconciliation.
Brothers and sisters, when we forgive, bless and accept someone who hurt us, we may become true Christians.
When we do that, we will become people united in God instead of stacking walls between us. Amen.