“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, .one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Eph 4:1-6 (NKJV)
We live in a world that is divided along ethnic and cultural lines. Because of sin, we act tribal. We pitch one group over and against the other. We look down at anyone who is different. What is involved here is pure pride.
Listening to what St. Paul had to say to the faithful in Ephesus, there are certain things that are characteristic of being a disciple of Jesus: lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, love. One could say that, “I do that with my tribe, and why do I have to cross the isle to embrace another?”
For me, this question is fundamentally wrong. It assumes that I could love the other person in my tribe as myself. But the truth of the matter is that, when we think tribally, we are focused on our self-centeredness, which betrays the notion that I can love others as my- self. I am sure this sounds a little convoluted, but let me explain further by looking at what St. Paul has to say:
I am sure this was a very difficult concept for St. Paul. After all, he was a Pharisee, and well educated and respected by his tribe. Anyone who was not from his tribe was considered unclean and not to be associated with.
Talk about an ethnocentric culture, it cannot be any worse than this. However, on the road to Damascus he was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and realized the need for humility. The revelation was that God is not partial.
I do not know about you, but I have a hard time with this one. When I sense the other person does not know what he or she is talking about, I stop listening. In fact, the urge I have is to just let the other person know that he or she is good for nothing, ignorant and not wor- thy of my time. The answer to this is, as St. Paul would say, is to be “all things to all people” so that we “might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
Change is difficult for those who are going through it and for those who are working hard to bring it about. For every action there is always an equal amount of reaction. If change is to take place, it will take time. Patience is a must.
For the type-A personalities out there, this drives us crazy. The tendency is to bulldoze our way into change, and by doing so we cause a lot of carnage along the way. Remember, if change were easy, the idea of sanctification would not be a lifelong process.
Prov. 10:12 (NKJV) reads:
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sin.
I find it very easy to defend the innocence of someone who I love, even though the truth can be to the contrary. When you love your culture, your tribe, your family, or whatever the “yours” might be, it is easy to find fault with anyone else who is not of that group.
When the love of God fills our hearts and minds, we start to see the other with His eyes. When that is the case, it is possible for us to grow in our love of all people. This leads to the possibilities of “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
I am hoping that this will challenge your thoughts in these tumultuous times, when the world is pushing us to division instead of unity, to strife instead of peace, and to hatred instead of to love.
Have hope my friends. Our unity is secure because Christ reigns now and forevermore!
By Rev. Dr. Yohannes Mengsteab
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area B