. . . striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.
Like many of the early churches, the Ephesian church was diverse. It included Jews and non-Jews, along with a mixture of slaves and free people (Ephesians 6:8). The Jews would have probably wanted the non-Jews to live according to the Law of Moses. At the same time, the non-Jews would have likely seen themselves as superior in education and social status to the Jews. Seeing the potential for rivalries and animosity, Paul urged them to overcome their differences by focusing on what they had in common.
But how was this possible in the face of profound and seemingly irreconcilable differences? Paul points to the need for humility, patience, and gentleness, and he wraps all of these virtues up in a call for them to strive for peace. And to fuel their determination, he reminds them of all they have in common as believers: “one body. . . one Spirit . . . one hope . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father” (Ephesians 4:4-6). If they could keep their eyes on all these gifts, unity would be possible.
Today, we see divisions within our Church as well. Race, class, and politics are some of the more obvious dividing lines, but there can also be divisions between religious traditionalists and progressives, between converts and “cradle Catholics.”
On the one hand, this is natural; we like to be around people who are like us. But on the other hand, we can hold too tightly to these dividing lines and rarely cross them. Staying within these boundaries keeps us from learning from one another. They keep us from discovering the many ways Jesus reveals himself. And they keep us from growing in the kind of all-encompassing love that draws people to the Lord.
St. Paul’s words aren’t just for the first-century Ephesians. They are for all of us. We are united to each other by bonds that go deeper than where we come from or how much money we make. We have the same Spirit living in us. We belong to the same God who loves us. We are indebted to the same Messiah who saved us.
May these truths break down every dividing wall!
Word Among Us