Ephesians 4: 3-13
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
‘When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.’
(What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
SUMMARY OF SUNDAY'S MESSAGE
We all want healthy relationships that hold together and grow together, we want friendships that are lasting and satisfying, we want marriages that are enduring and enriching, we want our workplaces to vibrate and pulsate from the energy that comes from healthy teams. Given the chance and the choice, no one ever votes for failed relationships. Every human wants meaningful, respectful, hopeful relationships. That's our intention, but it's not always the reality. Healthy relationships don't happen automatically, they happen over time and the key is to have strong foundations. We are not aiming for perfect - but we can move towards healthy.
"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it." (Ephesians 4: 3-7)
God dwells in relationship. The story of God and the glory of God travels through relationships, that why it's so crucial that we build a strong foundation in our relationships.
Attraction is a wonderful thing in a relationship. However, when building something, the attraction between the different materials isn't going to help build a strong structure. A building needs a solid foundation which points to the ultimate direction the building will have.
(i) A DIRECTION OF HOPE
Direction is so important. The direction of travel in relationships is towards hope. As Amos 3:3 says: "Can two walk together unless they are agreed." The question we should ask is: "Where is this person going?" Not simply, 'are they moving?', but 'what direction are they moving in? Is it towards hope - lasting, enduring hope can weather any storm and overcome any opposition?'
Even in business today, the question is more and more becoming: "What is your massive transformational purpose? How will your company change society?" Another way of saying this is: "What is your hope?"
(ii) THE IMPORTANCE OF CONVICTIONS
It's become commonplace for people to separate belief and behaviour. Convictions are confused. When we are getting into relationships, it's so important that we ask of the other person: "What are they convinced about at their core?"
Paul expressed it like this: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8: 38-39)
Look for those who have convictions and who won't be swayed by the winds of culture. A confession isn't a conviction until you have proven it to be real through your life's journey. Paul is convinced by the goodness of God. He has experienced it to be true. That conviction needs to be able to hold and grow through the changes of life.
Don't put people at the centre of your existence because that places a weight on the relationship it was never designed to sustain. The only thing strong enough to hold it is a cornerstone, that is, Christ alone at the centre of our life and relationships.
(iii) A RECOGNITION OF THE GRACE IN EACH OTHER'S GIFTS
"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.....So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Eph 4: 7;11-13)
The way we attain to unity is a recognition of one another's gifts. It's the celebration of our strengths, not merely the accommodation of our weaknesses. You don't just want relationships with people who are covering your weaknesses, but you want people in your life who are uncovering your strengths. Some people are drawn to others out of compassion and keep pouring in for years without any reciprocation. That creates dependency. We don't want people dependent on us, we long for them to surpass us. Instead of pouring in, help them pour themselves out. We want people released into their greatness, to change the world.
What we long for is not a unity that comes from looking at each other, but by looking beyond each other at all that God has made available in Christ.
We want relationships which are not focused on where the other person is going wrong, but on the future God has given them, so we can pull out all that God has hidden inside them.