Imagine arriving at a soccer match that was nothing but chaos. On one team the forwards have decided that they don’t trust the midfielders or the defense with the ball, so they spend the entire game passing it between themselves, even at times stealing it from the midfielders on their own team to maintain their overbearing control over their own teammates. As the game drags on, the chaos deepens when the defense from the same team disbands and decides to operate as their own independent, individual teams. From this point forward, the defenders steal the ball not only from the opposing team but also from each other. Finally, the game loses all sense of order when every player that touches the ball shoots at the nearest goal immediately, not caring that for the most part, the goal they are shooting on is their own. The end result, chaos, absolute chaos. A team infected with this much disunity would be certainly doomed to failure.
The reason that this would never work is because soccer is a team sport. It requires all parts to work together with the other parts as one unit, one team. There is a driving oneness, and when the strikers cannot rely on the halfbacks, and the halfbacks cannot rely on the fullbacks, then the greatest strength afforded the team, its unity, is done away with. The defense must think as one if they are to stop the attacks of their opponents. The offense must view themselves as an extension of their teammates if they are to ever see victory. When many parts are involved, unity is the only means of success.
When we come to Ephesians 4, Paul appeals to the believers in Ephesus that they would strive to live in unity and peace with one another. In loving forbearance, and in longsuffering, they were to meekly and humbly strive for unity and oneness in the body. The church cannot function well any other way. When members viciously attack and backbite, and when rudeness prevails, the church and its mission are gravely affected. For this reason, Paul warns the Roman believers to avoid those “who cause divisions” (Romans 16:17), because in their efforts to prove that they are right, they destroy other believers and undo the ties of unity in the body of Christ. Therefore, Paul admonishes, “avoid them.”
There is much at stake when disunity is allowed to fester in the church. In Ephesians 4, Paul indicates that the very nature of Christian theology and doctrine is directly related to the unity of believers. Conversely, we would then understand that those who cause disunity amongst Christians are practically denying the very doctrines of Scripture. We should be one as a body, because we have one head, Christ. We should dwell together as one in unity because we have all been indwelt by the same one, the Holy Spirit. We should dwell together in unity as one because we have been called and saved by the same one, God the Father. Ultimately, Paul teaches us that our unity as a body of believers is a reflection of our unity in the triune God, and any who would cause chaos where God has structured unity, defies the very nature of God.
Reflect: What is the connection between Ephesians 4:1-3 and the unity mentioned in Ephesians 4:4-6?