Gospel Culture, Pt. 5
Ephesians 4: 1-3 gives us 5 distinctive that we are called to cultivate in our churches. We have had the opportunity up until now to consider the first 4 aspects of what we might call "gospel culture." Gospel culture is about what people experience when they are among God’s people. To that extent, Ephesians 4 directs us to the significance of:
Surrender that has settled upon the surpassing worth of Jesus. A humility that has a view of self that is instructed and informed by the sheer magnitude of the help I need from Jesus.
Gentleness is the fruit of a deep experience of the grace of Jesus. Patience is self-aware enough to prize how faithful God has been to a rebel like me through Jesus.
The fifth aspect of gospel culture is not just something to be open to or offer tacit agreement about. It is something that we are directed to be eager to pursue. There is to be an urgency and proactivity about our approach to it. We are to chase down the kind of unity that is fuelled by peace between people whose relationships with God have been put right by Jesus. It is not something to be put off or to pass the buck of responsibility to someone else to sort out. Romans 12: 18 directs us very clearly on this: If possible so far as it depends on you live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).
The kind of unity we are called to takes attention and work. It tells us in Ephesians 4: 3 it needs to be maintained. The covid lockdown has perhaps given us some suitable illustrations of what this is describing. It is to be maintained like a garden or back yard (which fared well with so little else to do during lockdown other than gardening). It needs to be maintained like a haircut (which for most folks fared less well in a lockdown of home hairdressing). Gardens and haircuts have this in common with our relationships. There are always weeds and tangly bits that need to be tended if our relationships are to flourish.
There are always weeds and tangly bits that need to be tended if our relationships are to flourish.
The reality is that if you don’t maintain unity in relationships then you end up with the relational equivalent of a jungle mixed with Chewbacca. There is a reminder that division comes from a lack of diligence in maintaining unity that is rooted in the Gospel.
We may often think of unity or peace as a matter purely between us and the difficult person in our life. That’s not what Ephesians 4:3 says. It is the unity of the Spirit. We must not miss that the Holy Spirit is at work in us to unite our hearts in the work of bringing glory to Christ. If we recognize what we elsewhere in the New Testament around Christ dwelling in us then I very much doubt that He enjoys sharing space in yours and my heart with any antipathy we might have towards one another.
We are called to pursue the bond of peace. It is that God, by His Son and Spirit, has fastened us to Him. The Gospel binds us to God through Jesus. As brothers and sisters, He has bound us together in a local church and in a family of churches. So the bond of peace that the Gospel reminds us of and calls us to is the bond that we share in the peace that Jesus bought for us through His death on the cross. If we are reconciled to God how can we live unreconciled lives with one another? Our union with Christ should make relational issues between us intolerable and be a catalyst for us to act to resolve them with great urgency.
Our union with Christ should make relational issues between us intolerable and be a catalyst for us to act to resolve them with great urgency.
We ought to be tripping over one another to get there to resolve and reconcile first. We are to be eager.
Our membership covenant at Harvest Glasgow invites 5 Biblical commitments from those who would sign it. One is the commitment to Biblical Community. This is what it says:
‘I recognize that this commitment to Biblical community means that I flee to unity over disunity, reconciliation over conflict, speaking graciously over gossip,and remembering the cross when I am tempted to be critical. The Gospel calls me to love most, forgive fast and be at peace with people inasmuch as it depends upon me.’
Jesus has made peace between us and His father, should we not then conclude that He would design and desire the same peace to extend into our spiritual sibling relationships. The love and mercy and grace we have received from God in Jesus model to us that we are called to extend those same characteristics to those around us. The Holy Spirit empowers us to do that. The Holy Spirit is at work in Gospel people helping us to apply the Gospel to every relationship (not just those we find easy).