Ephesians 4:1-3; 25-26 ‘I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace… so then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin do not let the sun go down on your anger’
The bible study group I am part of here in Thailand is currently studying the book of Ephesians. It has been an interesting and enlightening book to study with this particular group. We are all twenty and thirtysomethings, from all areas of the US and the globe, with vastly different backgrounds and vastly different ministries. Time and time again, when discussing topics ranging from faith, to politics, to culture, to missions, we have disagreed. It almost seems inevitable, with a group this diverse, this young, this headstrong and this engaged, both with each other and in the world.
But one thing I have admired about the group is even though we all disagree- sometimes very strongly, on deeply personal matters- we are able to do so respectfully and in love. These verses seem to exemplify our actions. We speak our truth to one another (v 25), sometimes forcefully, or angrily (v26). But we also do so with humility and gentleness (v 1). Many times when we disagree we will preface it by saying ‘I know not everyone will agree, but I think…’. And I think we really do ‘bear with one another in love’ (v2). We seek to understand and know the other point of view, rather than just shouting it down. I know that this level of patience and understanding comes from a place of love for one another that is not always possible amongst strangers. But I think this style of ‘quarreling’ is what we are called to.
I grew up in a church denomination that had a big split- national news big- when I was in middle school. My church was very much in the middle of it. I did not fully understand it then, but I knew it was very painful for people in the church and for the older members in my family. I am not trying to make a statement about the appropriateness of that split, but rather remind us all of the impact of our quarrels, and the fact that we should try to disagree in love, and not let our anger give way to sin.
I will leave off with a comment that one member of our group said last week: ‘if we were to commit to our churches the way we do our family, we would act very differently’. We are all one family, united by far more (‘one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the 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 all’ Ephesians 4:4-6) than what divides us. Quarrels and disagreements amongst believers are inevitable, but it is the way in which we quarrel that will show our view of God.