Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16
The news out of Ukraine is both heart-breaking and inspiring. It’s heartbreaking to hear of the death and destruction that’s been brought to those people all because of the evil intentions of a ruthless ruler. Hundreds of people have died. Families are being torn apart. Bombs are bringing massive destruction and instilling fear in the hearts of the innocent. Amidst such chaos, you’ve probably heard some inspiring stories too. Of the president who refused safe egress from his country, but instead has chosen to fight alongside his people–no matter the cost. Or, the man who gave his life in setting off an explosion of a bridge, that he might deter the Russian advance. Or, the 80 year old man who stood in line to receive his weapon, that he might fight the aggressors for the sake of his grandchildren. Or, the couple who married, both bearing arms, their “honeymoon?”–to join in the battle.
Those folks are humans like us. Prior to the war they had their individual hopes and dreams, revolving around their families and careers and such. Those hopes have now all been laid aside, the people all being galvanized around one cause and one hope. Their cause? Freedom. Their hope? Victory. Pray for those dear people, their cause is just and their hope is virtuous!
Our text speaks to the one hope that is shared by every believer in Christ, “There is 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” (Ephesians 4:4-6). The context of this verse is the call to us to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). As God’s people we need to exercise diligence in preserving the unity God has established in His church. That’s not a simple or easy thing to do. The church I pastored in Astoria had previously experienced much division. A 50/50 church split had led to a decade of troublesome infighting. During the course of those ten years four pastors had come and gone. The church lost its reputation, laid waste to its testimony, and lost its ability to get anything done. Tragically, the recent Covid pandemic has worked to cause a similar spirit of division in many churches, with church members disagreeing on how to respond to various government mandates. There is an unprecedented divisiveness in our society, and the church has not escaped that.
One thing that can work a change in us is a renewed focus on the common hope we share. We are pilgrims and strangers here, on a shared journey to our future home. Our hope lies not in the here and now, but in the there and then. As the song says, “this world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.” We are those looking for the blessed hope. Our minds are not set on “earthly things’…”our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior” (Philippians 3:20). Our Ukrainian friends have been compelled by war to refine their focus such that they now share in one hope and cause. We need, by the Spirit, to refine ours. We all worship the same God, have faith in the same Jesus, and share in a common identity. We are indwelt by the same Spirit, and He works to fill our hearts with anticipation of the glories that await. By the Spirit we are to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25), lest we get distracted by the lesser hopes and dreams that will all soon fade away.
Albert Barnes once commented on this, “Christians have the same hope, and they should therefore be one. They are looking forward to the same heaven; they hope for the same happiness beyond the grave. It is not as on earth among the people of the world, where there is a variety of hopes–where one hopes for pleasure, and another for honor, and another for gain; but there is the prospect of the same inexhaustible joy. This hope is fitted to promote union. There is no rivalry–for there is enough for all. Hope on earth does not always produce union and harmony. Two men hope to obtain the same office; two students hope to obtain the same honor in college; two rivals hope to obtain the same hand in marriage–and the consequence is jealousy, contention, and strife. The reason is that but one can obtain the object. Not so with the crown of life–with the rewards of heaven. All may obtain that crown; all may share those rewards. How can Christians contend in an angry manner with each other, when the hope of dwelling in the same heaven swells their bosoms and animates their hearts?”
You Are on a Journey with Fellow Travelers All Headed to the Same Glorious Destination
Lord Jesus. How marvelous is Your work in uniting us all in Your body, as was Your prayer to the Father! We are blessed in unity, and discouraged in its loss. You’ve warned us to be diligent to preserve that which You have established. Forgive us that we’ve failed to do that on too many occasions. May the Spirit fill us all with a renewed focus on the shared hope we have in You. As fellow travelers on a journey home may we be quick to encourage one another along the way! Some have lost focus. Some have grown weary. Some have fallen out of step. Grant us the compassion and wisdom to respond to others as You would have us to. Amen.