Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. – Ephesians 2:11-22
Pastor Jeff Doria and fellow staff member Seth Gehrke and I were invited to a Pastor Appreciation event at Covenant Academy today. It was an interesting and enlightening experience. The school employs a classical model of education. As the head of the school explained it to me, this is based on the design of God and the child’s development. According to Classical Academic Press,
The classical approach teaches students how to learn and how to think. … Regardless of their learning style, children learn in three phases or stages (grammar, logic or dialectic, and rhetoric), known as the trivium. In the grammar stage (K–6), students are naturally adept at memorizing through songs, chants, and rhymes.
Part of the event included a discussion with the several pastors present about differing approaches to education, and how the church can bring unity among people who come from differing educational paradigms. One pastor spoke about God’s glory being in any gathering of believers, and that rather than focusing on differences we ought to be celebrating our unity in Christ. Another said that the devil is the father of division.
I had to think of Jesus’ words in his High Priestly Prayer, that his disciples “may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23).
The challenge is greater than we might think. More than once Paul had to write the new Christians about their disunity, or to encourage them in the face of attacks on them that they were not legitimate parts of the body of Christ. Corinth was a divided church – people claiming to follow Paul, Peter, and some supposedly above the fray altogether, saying that they followed Christ. The church in Galatia was beset by enemies of the Gospel who claimed that they were not true Christians unless they were circumcised.
Add to those external threats the internal threats of selfishness, envy, distrust, and greed, and it’s a wonder that we are able to claim any sense of unity, and accomplish anything of note together. The art of working together is a lost art. Perhaps we can rededicate ourselves to the tasks at hand, and do the hard work of working with others.
It requires faith, patience, longsuffering, kindness, humility, mercy, and mutual respect. Where do we learn these things? From Jesus’ perfect life, suffering and death. Where do we get the motivation for working together in such a manner? From the same Lord Jesus who overflows with all those graces toward us.