The Church Post-Covid Part 1: Maintaining Unity
May 20, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
With the CDC’s announcement last week that fully vaccinated people can return to normal, pre-covid activities, it feels like the end of the pandemic is within sight. Yes, more still needs to be done to officially say the pandemic is over. And yes, covid-19 still is a serious disease. But there is tangible progress in the battle that has us thinking ahead to a world “post-covid.” I want to use this space over the next few weeks to think about the implications for the church.
One challenge the church faces coming out of covid is the need for unity among believers. This last year has been filled with contentious debates over how to respond to the pandemic, politics, and racial tensions. The devil has been having a field day by exacerbating divisions among believers. The Bible tells us plainly that Satan is waging war against the church (Rev. 12:17; Eph. 6:12). Among his many, faith-destroying tactics, he loves to disrupt the unity Christ has created among believers (Eph. 2:14).
Therefore, Paul commands the church to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Note that the church does not create the unity, we maintain it. Paul then explains that this unity is created in Christ, “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 all” (4:4-6). Satan would have us ignore the significance of this unity created in Christ and accentuate the differences among us.
At the end of Ephesians 4, I believe Paul gives the most practical guidelines for how Christians “maintain the unity of the Spirit.” He writes, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (v. 31-32). These commands are in line with our new identity in Christ: we put off the old self (4:22) and “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God” (v. 24).
We are to treat others like God has treated us, even when we have sinned and rebelled against him. Think about that. Is there anything in me that makes me deserving of God’s forgiveness in Christ? Absolutely not! “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Ephesians 4:32 must be read and felt in light of Romans 5:8. If we did not deserve God’s kindness, love, and forgiveness, what right do we have to withhold kindness, love, and forgiveness from others?
If you are reading this and thinking of someone else, who you hope is also reading this and will be kind to you and forgive you, you are missing the point. We each have a responsibility to “maintain the unity of the Spirit.” We do this by putting off the old self (malice, bitterness, slander, etc.) and putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God (kindness, tenderhearted, forgiveness). We cannot let the devil win by undercutting the unity created in Christ around the Gospel.
As we come back together “post-covid,” let us maintain the unity of the Spirit.