1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
I worked for a highly successful entrepreneur who said the key to business success was managing expectations. Always set expectations and exceed them. Never create false expectations or you will loose your customers and ultimately the business. My experience is that false expectations are one of the single biggest problems in the church. We look to church as a place that will “meet our needs” and be a nearly utopian fellowship. Look at the first three verses and see what Paul’s expectations are.
First, “prisoner in the Lord” does not sound like someone who is trying to get his needs met. This is someone who is so sold out to Jesus that his very will has been taken captive. Second, Paul talks about “bearing with one another.” “Bearing is from the Greek anechomai and can mean bear with, put up with, forbear, endure, suffer. Doesn’t sound much like the kind of place we would choose to get our needs met. And that is precisely the point. God is the one who gathers us into community with a whole array of very annoying people and sends us out in mission. After all, as Tony Campolo used to say, “Jesus is the light of the world; and as we all know, light attracts bugs.”
Verses 4-6 talk a lot about “one.” Many people talk about this or that group of Christians (i.e., ethnicity, worship style, generation, theological distinctive, etc.) and ask if we can become one? Bad question. We are one through Christ and there is nothing we can do about it. We are stuck with each other for eternity. The only question is will we choose to live like we are one. Yes, I know there is heresy and error but what is the appropriate response to an errant sister or brother? Shall we go back and visit verses 1-3? Now what does “bearing with” mean to us? There is an old Quaker saying that goes “All are queer but thee and me…and sometimes I wonder about thee.” The fact is, I don’t really want to put up with you and I expect if you really knew me, you would not want to put up with me either.