Unity in Littelness
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Eph 4:1-3 ESV
We continued to focus on unity this week. How can we or will we attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… Eph 4:13
Why is Paul so redundant?
Ephesians chapters four through six, known as the marching orders for the church, begin with establishing the character qualities required for unity. Humility seems to be the most foundational. Still, our friend Leon made an interesting point. The root of the issue is power. Humility is the fruit of giving our power away instead of hoarding it for our own prosperity and prestige etc.. This is counter-intuitive in a world driven by the idolatry of celebrity. Add to that an obsession with personal identity and imagined significance and we’ve got a recipe for God’s opposition in our lives. James 4:6
He opposes the proud…
According to some scholars, the Greeks didn’t have a word for humility until the New Testament. When they did it became a pejorative. Paul’s redundancy may indicate that Jewish and Gentile believers were still struggling to lay their biases and pride aside. In any case, Jesus is our example. He is the all-powerful, all-knowing incarnate God who humbled Himself and gave everything so that one day we might be unified in one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph 4:4-6
How many of us are willing to give everything?
It was 2016 and we were with South Sudanese Refugees in the Rhino Refugee camp in Northern Uganda. Our outreach team was asked to address leaders from different tribes who had been fighting one another in an ongoing civil war. Now fifty thousand of them were unified in their
Given that I was the oldest male on the team they asked me to speak first. Unity was the theme. Nearly every sect and denomination were represented. There were Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostals, and Presbyterians to name just a few. Even Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were there. Suffice it to say, I felt thoroughly inadequate. What could I, a spoiled American from Hawaii tell these men about unity amid such suffering? I had everything. They had been stripped of everything. I babbled some kind of message that I can’t recall. I only remember one South Sudanese man, a former “Lost Boy” (child soldier) who stood up at the end and proclaimed,
“There is no good tribe! There are no good people! Only one is good! That one is Jesus!”
These doctors, nurses, lawyers engineers, teachers, professors, and preachers never imagined they’d end up living in the dust with their children without food or water for days at a time. They never imagined that one of their children would die daily due to starvation or a lack of medical care. Now they understood the utter futility of human power, resolutions, and pride.
Having come to the end of themselves they’d found unity in the dust.
I’m certainly not on a quest to suffer. Yet as much as we may deny it, the path of Rom 5:3-5 tribulation is unavoidable in this life unless, of course, we refuse to persevere. Tribulation is thlîpsis – anguish, burden, persecution, distress, oppression, affliction, pressing together, and pressure. Paul doesn’t specifically mention humility here. But he further clarifies the connection in 2 Cor 12
... I refrain from it (boasting), so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. …to keep me from becoming conceited… But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:5-10
That is humility in action.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4 in action looks like the South Sudanese man with whom Cathy walked in the Rhino camp.
After praying with a woman whose child had just died, Cathy asked the man “How do you cope with all this pain?” “We have lost everything…” He smiled,
“…but we have Jesus!”
James 1:2-4 looks like our friend who lost two children to suicide. She wrote the following after she lost her third child to an accidental overdose in October.
“As I sit in my cozy home with my Bible and too much food in my kitchen and so, so many blessings, it seems to me that God is good. Not because of material things, but more so in the area of loss. I have lost three of my children, the three youngest, three that loved me, three that did not hold my failings over my head. three that I am convinced we’re saved! And so there is hope. Hope that we will be together again, one day- minus all the baloney of this life. Hope that they now- at last, have a full understanding of “why?”
What has happened, how my life has transpired, the hardships, sufferings, pain, and sorrow, is nothing compared to the glory which shall be revealed in Heaven. So many people have suffered hardship and grief throughout the ages. Many folks have had it ALOT worse than I do. Among those are many stories of strength and perseverance. The ability to continue on with this life in the face of great loss. To continue in hope. To know that God is sovereign
and God is good.“
James 1:2-4 leads to completeness. Completeness leads to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… Eph 4:13
Hence, Paul begins with lowliness (humility) in Eph 4:1-3 KJV + Strong’s
It occurs to me as I ponder the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, Eph 3:9 that somewhere in the neighborhood of eight trillion people have walked the earth since the fall of man. Gen 3. Every one of them became the dust upon which we walk until the day we become dust ourselves. Gen 3:19
It seems to me that if humility begins with giving power away, then giving power away begins with facing the dusty nature of what many call
Yes, the body has many parts 1 Cor 12:12-31. But what good is a hand or a foot apart from the rest of the body? Parts only matter in the context of the whole. Unity is the joints that connect the parts. Eph 4:16
Only unified parts can make a whole.
Humility – tapeinophrosýnē – a deep sense of one‘s littleness.