Ephesians 4:1-5 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 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.
I have always enjoyed puzzles. Not everyone enjoys them like I do. In fact, they completely stress my husband out even at the preschool level. I think it is the concept that every piece has a place and if you just work it all everything fits together. There is a solution. I imagine this appeals to my need for order and control. Dumping the contents of the box on the table, sorting through each piece, separating the edges to begin with, it is no surprise that I found one waiting to be done at the Hope Lodge where my son and I stayed during his treatment. Caregivers and patients alike would join each other around the table to sort out and complete something when everything else in their life was turned upside down. Friendships were formed around the puzzle. Tears were shed as well. Time passed slowly yet somehow even on the hard days and darkest hours of the night there seemed to be something being completed and finished in our life.
On the box of every puzzle there is a picture of the completed product. The goal for which we strive in our endeavor to put all the pieces in their proper place. Don’t worry I am not going to continue to bore you with the semantics of puzzles but feel in my heart that it is the premise of unity in its example that we need in our churches today. Within each congregation new pictures and images have been formed of a body clearly defined and a Spirit fully formed. Division and dysfunction take over if we cannot find ways to fit together and find everything is falling apart. The longer a puzzle is spread out and fitted together – the more likely it will lose pieces along the way. Each piece has a place in the big picture that will never be fulfilled in its absence. Oh the Lord is speaking to us today as believers – we must come together. We must find our place.
“Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” These words are scripted by Paul from a prison most likely with chains on his wrists, he still felt freedom in his heart. He called his brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to come together. To unite and be one. It is our calling. How are we have come yet how spread apart also? We are part of one body. We are born of one Spirit. We are called to one hope. We have one Lord. We have one faith. We experience one baptism. We serve only one God. He is our Father. We are His Children. It is time for the family to come together.
When working on a puzzle, we look at the hole and search for the piece that will fit in it. Why are we going back to this? It is time to apply the same philosophy to the Body of Christ. The world in which we live thrives on grouping. I cannot help my kid with her math homework anymore because rather than simple arithmetic, it requires crazy regrouping. We divide people based on sex, race, religion, political views, socioeconomic status, diagnoses, and the list goes on and on. There is no push for unity because if we truly came together personal agendas would be destroyed. Everyone would have to give up something they want to become one with the other. To fulfill our calling in Jesus Christ is to surrender all of our life to become one with Him. We think we want it but does our life relay the same?
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
To create a puzzle an image is chosen and printed. The picture is glued on a board thick enough to fit together. A sharp blade then cuts into pieces which are amassed into the one that is bought and dumped out on the kitchen or card table where it will be put back together. The picture is chosen first. We are chosen. Our lives completely recorded and handcrafted by the Lord before we are born into this world. Before our hearts are broken, the Lord provided the healing needed to keep going. He knew the hardship to be endured so He provided all the grace needed in advance. He understood how much faith would be required to establish hope in our life so He gave it to us up front in the measure required. See all of this is part of a plan, picture, or masterpiece that God predestined before our birth. It is up to us to decide will we become part of the hope that is our future or will we just be a piece with a part of the picture never to be fulfilled.
Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
God designed the Body. He knows how it fits together and works properly. It would only seem logical to seek His Instruction (His Word) and His Guidance (His Spirit) for everyone to find their proper place. Pride is not a part of God’s Character. He is not arrogant. He is Sovereign. In order to find our place in the Lord, it will require submission and surrender on a level that humanity is not accustomed to. It is our vain glory that allows us to try to define worship, spout out praise, and live a life of service all the while glorifying ourselves rather than humbling, hopefully following the Lord to find our way and proper place in the Body of Christ.
No one can see your heart except the Lord. No one can fulfill your purpose other than a partnership with God the Father. He puts people around us to connect with and as a body we are to connect with those around us in other churches and throughout our community. Church is a living breathing body filled with Jesus Christ.
Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first…”
I know that when I would sit and work on the “community puzzle” in the Hope Lodge that I would find rest for my mind. It would take my mind off the struggle and fight we were in if only to become lost in a pile of pieces in need of proper placement. While he lay sleeping, fighting, healing and recovering, I would sit with my new friends and talk about life before this tragic set of circumstances befell us. Since that time, I know of others who are now fighting the same fight. They post pictures of their puzzle creations. I look intently at each one. An effort to restore order in the midst of chaos. Busyness that calms the mind and quiets the heart if only for a few moments. I understand completely.
I wonder if rather than working on programs, projects, calendars, and promotions, the church and body of Jesus Christ worked on coming together in complete unity what might happen. What if we took the same diligence and thoughtfulness used in putting together a puzzle? Never quitting until the final one slips in its place and searching high and low for those who missing or lost, what would happen?
The Book of Ephesians is focused on Christianity as a whole. What it means to be a Christian in faith and in practice regardless of circumstance or condition focused fully on Jesus Christ. With this in mind, in the Book of Revelation, their error is made clear. The Lord knew of everything they were “doing” in His Name. Their hard work was no secret. They patiently endured trial and tribulation for being Christians. They did not entertain sin. Showing wisdom, they did not fall for the convoluted word and lies of false prophets but rightly discerned God’s Word. These people were not quitters but kept pushing and pressing no matter what. All of these qualities and characteristics were of God and done for His Glory, yet they were in clear danger of missing it altogether.
You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Many of the people who sat around the puzzle with me at the Lodge are with Jesus now or at least I hope so. As we worked together in that place, there was never an argument or dispute just love, kindness and compassion for each other. Why can’t we come together like that as believers?
Years ago Rubik’s Cubes were popular. Do you remember them? A 3-D puzzle in the form of a plastic cube covered in multicolor squares. Twisting and turning each section, the object was to have all of the same color on one side. I would work that thing for hours until one day I discovered that if I popped one out that they all fell out. I could take each piece and put it in its proper place suddenly the endless process all came together quickly. I never knew the satisfaction of completing it without cheating. I gave up. It was easier to do it that way but over time the cube was not as tightly together and became loose until one day the pieces just fell apart. There is a process in unity that brings satisfaction when the Body of Christ presses through the pain, pushes past their problems, stops defining one another by differences, and puts in the time, twisting and turning until believers come together as a well-formed properly place body. Everyone is necessary.
The only way to work this out is to stop looking for the differences in one another and find our likeness. Likeness will turn into acceptance. As we accept one another as we are applying grace just as God gives it to us a bond is formed called relationships. My shoulder has a relationship with my arm including my elbow, wrist, hand and fingers. My muscles and tendons allow it all to relate and work together so that I can use it. They are doing so as I type the message today. If a tendon is damaged or muscle is torn suddenly my entire arm including all of its parts could be impacted. Why? They were created to work together. God has given us one another for a purpose. We must love one another not just in word or deed but from the heart. Love is our likeness. It is this kind of relationship that will form the Body of Christ creating the masterpiece that God created us to be. Every person in proper placement. Churches without walls that come together to promote the Good News and find another missing person who has fallen out of place. When our purpose forgets people we have missed it altogether. What if we looked at ways to make people fit in rather than exclude them? Imagine the possibilities.
Lord, teach me to see people like you do. Impress upon my heart unity, love, compassion and grace for all people in all things never to drive them away but draw them closer to You. Forgive me for all the times I compared them to my standards rather than embracing them with Your Love as instructed. I want to be part of a fully functionally perfectly constructed masterpiece. Humble me in Your Presence Lord. Teach me Your Gentleness, Love and Kindness again and again until I get it and give it to all people unconditionally. Remind me today and always that “there is one body and one Spirit, just as (I am) called to one hope (with) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Lord teach me unity, bind it with love, so we can come together and be all you have designed us to be!
Psalm 133:1-3 (NLT) How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.