It is part of our sinful human nature to build barriers that shut out other people. That’s why it’s hard for me, being a Leaf fan, to love you Senator Fans as equals. This is what I was influenced by the most as a child growing up. I was raised to bleed blue and to look at others as they are the ones with the problem. That’s why it’s hard for me to love someone who can sit and watch grown men with brooms yell at each other for an hour or two. Ok let’s get serious now! Though I’m only joking and love each and every one of you here this morning, because Paul is addressing the Local Church.
We live in a world that filled with rivalries….
Conservatives versus Liberal
Coke versus Pepsi
Nike versus Reebok
Doctors versus doctors
Schools versus schools
Dads versus dads
Leafs versus Sens
This is a major problem as it pertains to the “New birth” in Christ through the gospel. This was a problem during the time of the early church and Paul in his letter to the church in Ephesus address this issue with reminding of who we once were…but not as we should be now! It’s the grace and mercy of Christ as John Newton said “…I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, "By the grace of God I am what I am.” During the times of the New Testament disunity was one of the greatest barriers to the church. Paul in this portion describes a deep, complex, hostility between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews had ceremonies, feasts, rituals and distinguished themselves from other nations. The Jews boasted about having the blood line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and superior to the Gentiles as they considered them lower than second class people……Jonah was a prime example of that hatred. The Jews even considered them so unworthy they would even walk on the other side of the road to avoid such a person even if they lay their dying.
Remember the example Jesus made “And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." Luke 10:24-37
This was a major problem, especially when you put them under the same roof, but that wasn’t the only problem
What do I mean by that?
Slaves and slave owners had their own set of problems to address. Many slaves looked on their masters with contempt and resentment. Slave owners looked at their slaves as being inferior, slightly above animals. This was a problem because we naturally build barriers around our hearts and our greatest desire is for people to conform to you and me. See, one of the greatest problems of the early church was in getting Christian slave owners and Christian slaves to treat each other as spiritual equals. Not just slaves and slave owners had this problem but husbands often treated their wives little better than they did their slaves. When a wife became a Christian her entire life, outlook and value system changed. Sadly though, unbelieving husbands would likely divorce her simply because she made such a radical decision without his consent. Disunity has plagued marriages, families, those who are closest and distant from us.
Why? We have a sinful and bent perception in how we look at one another. And to top it off the Greeks were so proud of their culture and supposed racial superiority that they considered everyone else to be barbarian. Paul wrote about this issue and addressed biblically “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.”
Col 3:11 we read “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Col 3:11
As the Greeks say “All men are divided into two classes, Greeks and barbarians.”
History tells us that ancient Roman, wrote that Greeks constantly waged a truceless war against people of other races, all of whom they held to be barbarians.
We need to understand ….
Because of this playing out in the lives of the people at that time that church life was hard work and sometimes old habits, traditions and sinful men are hard to change. The early church faced continuing barriers not only between believing Gentiles and Jews but between believing Greeks and other Gentile believers.
Disunity amoung God’s people has always been a special heartache to God.
Jesus says three times they would walk in harmony in the same prayer “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” John 17:11
John 17:21 says “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
And in John 17:22 ”The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,”
What is amazing about this prayer in John is…. This prayer of Jesus has come to fulfillment because everyone in Christ we are one………….…positionally! From every tribe, tongue or age, we are (who are saved) positionally in Christ through the precious gospel. Practically though is very different then our position in Christ, and sadly it’s often tragic and hurts not just one person but the whole body of Christ. Paul addressed this behavior with the Church at Corinth “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” 1 Cor 3:1-3. Paul sent this church two letters of rebuke because of this very thing Paul is reminding us about in the book of Ephesians. We naturally are sinful by nature and for many of us that nature has been the focus of most of our lives, and when Christ came into our lives all that changed for the better but their still much work to do.
As the old saying “Garbage in, garbage out.” It’s hard to get rid of garbage when it’s always been a part of you. Especially when you’ve been placed in a building that filled with people like yourself. This was the problem the churched faced then and to be honest still faces today. John MacArthur said in one of his messages “I’ve lived long enough to know that you can go to many, many churches, and you will find, if not sort of smoldering below the surface, hostility, you’ll find open hostility. And it comes down to the fact, not that people were offended, but that when they were offended they refused to forgive. It splits churches. It harms the testimony of the gospel. “By this shall all men know that you’re My disciples, if you have love one for another. Love forgives.”
Look what disunity does to the life of a Christian and the church as a body. I want to look at four things that bring disunity to the church before we tackle this portion of Pauls’ letter. We need to understand the dangers before we can see what Paul is really trying to tell us this morning.
Disunity Happens when We make everything About You.
The church doesn’t exist to make you (or me) happy; it exists to glorify God. We argue and fight in the church over some really dumb things. We argue about things that, from a heavenly perspective, don’t really matter all that much. We come from different backgrounds, family life…some broken , some not broken, some from saved families to you being the only one saved, we come from different places; we have different desires and issues that plague each of us differently. And God takes you and me and tells us to love one another as Jesus loved us. This is what the church is filled with! Sinners saved by grace and we have one mandate and that is to love one another and encourage one another to live our lives for the glory of His name. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Heb 10:24-25
Disunity Happens When Gossip Destroys The People Around You.
There’s a reason James said the tongue is a fire. “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:6. On many occasions….Church members talk about one another instead of talking to one another. Paul calls church members who gossip people "filled with all unrighteousness" Paul said “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,” Rom 1:29. Consider the damage it can do to a church. Gossip and other sins of the tongue have absolutely no place in the body of Christ. None. Gossip is a cancer in the body of Christ that, if not removed, will destroy the fellowship. The problem of gossip is a problem of the heart, and so the correction needs to happen in the deepest recesses of the heart.
Disunity Happens When We Refusing To Forgive.
Bitterness and resentment are poisons. Unforgiveness poisons the soul and it poisons the body of Christ. The church is, by nature, a fellowship rooted in forgiveness. The problem with not forgiving is that unforgiveness imprisons people in their past, and in their present. As long as you refuse to forgive offenses and the offenders, you are chained to the offense of unforgiveness. What does that mean, practically speaking? “17th-century Puritan Thomas Watson said forgiveness looks like this “You don’t seek revenge when someone offends you, you wish him well, you grieve at his calamities, you pray for him, you seek reconciliation, and show yourself willing to come to his aid. That’s what forgiveness looks like, and that’s what it takes to maintain unity.”
To forgive is to turn the key, open the cell door, and let the prisoner walk free.
To forgive is to write in large letters across a debt “nothing owed.”
To forgive is to pound the gavel in a courtroom and declare “not guilty.”
To forgive is to shoot an arrow so high, so far, it can never be found again.
To forgive is to take out the garbage and dispose of it, leaving the house full of cleanliness and sweet-smelling fresh air.
To forgive is to loose the anchor that holds the ship, and set it free to sail.
To forgive is to grant a full pardon to a condemned and sentenced criminal.
To forgive is to loosen a strangle-hold on a wrestling opponent.
To forgive is to sandblast a wall of graffiti, leaving it looking brand new.
To forgive is to smash a clay pot into a thousand pieces so it can never be put together again.
Those are biblical metaphors of forgiveness.
Disunity Happens when We Take Our Eyes Off Of Jesus.
The above three only happen when we fail ignore or to look to Jesus, and this happens when we take our eyes off the prize that is in Christ Jesus. Because we forget the rock from which he found us under.
Look what Paul says (v11-v12) Have you forgotten about the promises of God Church to who you were before Christ entered into your heart and life?
We were separated from the people of God
We were alienated and strangers to the promised of God.
We had no eternal hope
But that all changed when God displayed His extending love to sinners who are by nature hostile people……you and me (v13-15) Let Paul remind us of this wonderful sustaining and amazing grace. (v18-v22).
We are reconciled
We have access together
We are family and no longer strangers
We are fellow citizens
We are built on the foundation of scripture.
God has saved us and put us together with other sinners saved by the same grace that took your wretched soul and gave it new life. Jesus became our curse for all people groups and He has placed His children in this place so that we can worship together and sing and hear His word about His might work. The church is wonderful thing to be a part of and we must never squander this blessing as so many do then and still do today. We must walk in harmony and as a unified family under His grace and mercy. Paul urges the church to “remember” these things so they may live with a greater sense of gratitude to God and a greater love for one another. It is by the beauty and the power of the Cross that has reconciled us back into His loving arms and not only that but to one another as we worship together in one Spirit under God’s grace.
Disunity doesn’t have any eternal value to the church all it says is “I want to be stone apart from a building or a son or daughter separated from my family.” Disunity treats the church that is something unnecessary, unimportant or even a hindrance to doing great things for God. That’s the bird’s eye view and next week we will land and see what Paul is telling us from worms eye view.