I know that this is inconceivable, but I‘ve never watched the movie “Princess Bride.” There are some great lines from that movie that I’ve picked up on, and use, but as inconceivable as it may be, I’ve never seen the movie. You may wonder if I’m pulling your leg, since I’ve used the word “inconceivable” twice. I learned the story recently when I used the accompanying phrase. If you are, inconceivably, as culturally ignorant as me, one of the main characters continues to use the word “inconceivable” in any situation, even if it’s not conceivable to use it. Finally, Inigo Montoya uttered this phrase that even people like me will use: “You keep using that word. I’m not sure it means what you think it means.”
As followers of Christ, we use a lot of words that may not be used correctly. Two words that tend to be misunderstood are “unity” and “peace.” Those are great words to describe how we should live in fellowship with each other, but we attach our own understanding to those words. Rather than focus on unity of the Spirit, we demand unity in action and thought. Cult leaders seek to make sure everyone does things exactly the same. We wear the same clothes, we do the same things. Everything is done in unity, well, unanimity really. And that’s a different word. Another word we seem to misunderstand is “peace.” Neville Chamberlain is pilloried for his comment after a meeting to deal with Nazi aggression that “We have peace in our time.” Even if not another shot had been fired, there would not have been peace, because peace is more than an absence of conflict. Paul notes the importance of those concepts in this short passage: “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.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)
As Paul began this section of the letter to the Ephesians, he noted that he was a prisoner for Christ before he began the exhortation. He didn’t call for a revolution to free himself, he reminded these Christians to act in a way that was completely contrary to the current culture: show humility, be gentle, be patient, put up with each other in love. These ideas today are so counter culture that we forget to practice them as Christians. We fight for acceptance and for our rights, forgetting what our main call from God is, which is to make disciples of all men. We’re called to keep the unity of the Spirit. That doesn’t mean uniformity. We’re all different. We approach life differently. We have different denominations because we believe differently. But we can still be united in the Spirit if we deal with our differences in a humble and gentle way. We don’t need to tell the other guy how wrong he is in his beliefs, we need to show love and grace by being humble and gentle. Every person I think is wrong, probably thinks I’m wrong too. We can trust God’s Spirit to lead us no matter what our differences may be. Living in the bonds of peace means that we work together harmoniously, in spite of our differences.
Tony Celelli, President of the South Texas School of Christian Studies, said a while back that we are living in times more like the first century than any time since the first century. If that’s true, then Paul’s words are more important than anytime since the first century. Instead of reacting to the world, and postings on the internet with anger and pride, our goal should be to be humble and gentle. Battles won on the internet may make it more difficult for others to share the gospel. Let’s be patient and bear with each other in love. I know that it’s inconceivable, but can we show unity of the Spirit? Can we live together in the bonds of peace, knowing that we can work harmoniously, even when we disagree, because of Jesus.
Lord, remind me that my goal is not to win arguments, but to share the gospel. Help me to work in unity and harmony with brothers and sisters in Christ to share the gospel.