One Body, In Unity
In Colossians 3, Paul writes to advise those who are Christians how to deal with one another. He writes in verses 12-17,
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on love (charity), which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
We note right away that Paul refers to us as “the elect of God, holy and beloved” As those who are born again in Christ Jesus, we are to clearly understand that we are the chosen, holy and beloved people of God. In 1Peter 2:9 we find additional support for this when Peter says “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. That you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
As holy ones, Paul is referring to us in the same way as Jesus Christ is referred to in the Gospels (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; John 6:69 and also Acts 4:27,30)
What Paul has done is to use the same language to refer to us as is used to refer to Christ Jesus. This is because we are not only clothed with Jesus Christ, but we died to our old fleshly selves when we became born again. We were born again in a new life in Jesus Christ, which redeemed our (fallen) image of God within us.
Each born again Christian is a member of the body of Christ, the church, of whom Christ is the head:
Colossians 1:18 And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Since each of us is the body of Christ, we are to treat each other as we would treat Christ. This is a tall order, and many times quickly forgotten. As Paul says in Col 3:12-13:
“…bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another..” Isnt this how Christ has been towards us? Verse 13 continues with “if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Yet, as special as this treatment is to be, Paul tells us to go one step further in how we treat our fellow Christians. We are to exhibit the utmost caring for each other:
Colossians 3:14 And above all these things put on love (charity), which is the bond of perfectness.
Paul advises us how to equip ourselves to accomplish this in verse15:
“ And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts..” How could we treat each other badly if each of us truly had the peace of Christ within us? Paul continues to emphasize that we received this gift from God for the express purpose of being united together, and for that reason we are to be thankful:
“…. to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
To strengthen the body of Chris, and our relationships with each other, Paul instructs us to dwell on The Word, to be gentle in how we admonish one another:
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
We are told to build each other up with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We are to feel the grace of the Lord in our hearts!!
As the church, do we practice these things? Some of us do and some of us don’t. Some of us are easily offended, even at things that ought not be an offense. Some of us easily create offense because we don’t consider the possibility of it towards our brother.
In 2Timothy we are told again by Paul to pursue righteousness, to stay away from conflicts, to be gentle to one another. Here again Paul reminds us of how careful we are to be:
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Christ Himself stated it in John 15:17 when He told us to love one another:
John 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
Christ went further and prayed to our heavenly Father, that we might be as unified as He is with the Father, and that as such, we might be one with He and the Father. The accomplishment of this unity would provide a proof for the world that Christ was sent by God the Father:
John 17:20-21 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, Paul beseeches the Ephesians to live a life worthy of their calling. He is literally pleading in earnest with them.
Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you are called,
Here in Ephesians, Paul repeats the same basic characteristics of Christian life and attitude towards one another as we found in Colossians:
Ephesians 4:2-3 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Paul ties it all together for us by equating our relationships with the Lord and our relationship with Him:
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Again in the companion epistle to Ephesians, Paul writes in Philippians:
Philippians 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it become the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
How do we achieve one spirit and one mind, in unity with Christ and the Father? We spend time in prayer, seeking the Lord’s will in our lives, seeking to be led by the Holy Spirit and not our own fleshly selves, studying His word, and fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
On the receiving side, we must immediately throw off (literally brush off) an offense as soon as it occurs. Those offenses that are serious in nature can be dealt with in accordance to prescribed Biblical process. But the small ones: smart alec remarks, quickly said words without much thought, etc. should be quickly discarded from our minds as fast as they were heard. If we feel offense, we should make every effort to move past it and truly forget it. Our goal should be to not be offended.
On the transmitting side, we must think through our words and actions carefully before we follow through. We must be sensitive to those that we are encountering, and consider that some are more easily offended than others, even though they should not be. Our goal should be to not create or be the source of offense. And if we find ourselves as the source of offense, we need to take immediate corrective action for the sake of our body of Christ. In doing so, we remain one body, in unity.