As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 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. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions ? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Sometimes as Christians we’re asked by our leaders to think about how we’re going in our faith. ‘How are you going with God?’, they may ask us. ‘Are you growing in your maturity in Christ?’ In response, we might think about reading the Bible, how our prayer life is going, and how we’re going with getting to church each week.
Interestingly, Ephesians 4 talks about Christian maturity in a corporate sense. In particular, in verse 16, the picture is of a body, ‘joined and held together by every supporting ligament, growing and building itself up in love, as each part does its work’.
N.T. Wright says this about the church: ‘The church isn't simply a collection of isolated individuals ... we need to learn again the lesson that a hand is no less a hand for being part of a larger whole, an entire body. The foot is not diminished in its freedom to be a foot by being part of a body which also contains eyes and ears. In fact, hands and feet are most free to be themselves when they coordinate properly with eyes, ears, and everything else. Cutting them off in an effort to make them truly free, truly themselves, would be truly disastrous.” (Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense)
God’s new community is a corporate one. We’re each given different gifts (v11), ‘so that the body of Christ may be built up’. We’re encouraged to ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (v3). The oneness, the unity, envisaged by this passage is comprehensive. What a blessing that we aren’t called to go it alone as followers of Jesus. But what a challenge to live well as the body of Christ!
Reflection: What are some of the challenges for us/our church in living well as the body of Christ? How can we address these challenges so that our church ‘grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work’?
Nat Rosner grew up in Sydney, lives in Melbourne and loves both cities! A former lawyer, she’s now a Minister at St Hilary's in Victoria and is passionate about sunshine, summer, sport, reading and local church ministry.
This reflection was originally posted as part of a series at St Hilary's, Kew