Be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3

The author of Ephesians has as his primary purpose the unity of the church: “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace “(Ephesians 4:2).The unity of the church was linked to Christ’s work of reconciliation which broke down the walls that kept Jews and Gentiles apart: “For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14). The church is a reconciled community that has no dividing walls; its members share a common unity and live in peace.

The unity of the church has its genesis in the work of the Spirit who makes us one in Christ. The importance of and the need for unity in the church is heightened by its description as a ‘body’ and its sharing a common faith. Its unity is characterised by its oneness in hope, faith, baptism and belief in one God. “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 us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).

The Spirit gives gifts to various people in the church to exercise a leadership ministry that promotes unity and builds up the body of Christ. “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4: 11-13). All persons who hold leadership positions in the church must use those positions to ensure that there is unity and not division and strife in the body. Within our parish setting the leaders of organizations, groups and committees, must promote unity at all times and refrain from any kind of activity that will cause disunity or division in the groups, committees and organization that they lead. Within this context we can never overemphasised the importance of leaders’ behaviour and attitude as they lead.

The call to unity in the church can be a real challenge. The church is comprised of people who come from various and many backgrounds and we do not always sing from the same page. Members of the church bring into the body their cultural, social, economic and political experiences and differences; there will be disagreements in the church, in our parish. We recognise and accept that there will be differences but we must not allow them to prevent us from being a unified body with a common purpose. This we can achieve if we accept these differences with love. We need to heed the advice of today’s New Testament reading to live a “life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2). There can be unity in diversity if we learn to exercise tolerance and accept our differences with love.

Our human differences within the church are not acknowledged by God. We are all equal in God’s sight and members of Christ’s body. The Sacrament of Baptism which grafts us into  the body, removes and makes our differences based on colour, class, race, gender, sex, nationality, wealth, money, education  and the like, invisible, thereby making it possible for us to live in unity. Paul writes to the Galatians about the significance of baptism: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). We must encourage all our members to use all their gifts in the church provided they do not destroy the unity of the body.

In our own lives we must work to get rid of all back biting, gossip, unnecessary criticism, anger, envy, jealousy, bitterness, dissensions and strife; these prevent unity in the church.

The church and its members must promote unity in the wider society. We should see ourselves as agents of unity whose aim is to break down the dividing walls that stop us from living in unity and peace.

As we go through one of the most difficult times in our history the need for unity is urgent and critical. United we stand divided we fall. The problems we face as a nation are serious and they require the help of all our citizens if we are to conquer them and ensure that our nation prospers. This we can only do if we are united as one people with a common goal.

The challenge we face as a people at this time is to put away our political, economic and social differences and pool our resources together as we seek solutions and answers to our difficulties. This is not a time to accentuate our differences, apportion blame to any one group or individual, trivialise the issues we face or become hopeless. Rather, it is a time for us to be united as one people with a common purpose which seeks the best for our nation at this time. When I lived and worked in another jurisdiction, this slogan was always recited by many people; “a people united can never be defeated.”

In the same way that the church’s leaders are called to exercise a ministry that fosters unity, the same is true for our secular leaders. Those who lead us in the private and public sectors, social and civil groups, must ensure that their leadership advances the cause of unity which will instil hope and confidence in our people at this crucial time in our history.

Today we pray that God will give to his church his gift of unity which is essential for its witness in the world. At the same time we pray that God will unite our nation as we face uncertain times.

As a church and nation we will fall and be unable to rise if we are not united. 

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