Ephesians chapter 4 is one of those passages that speaks deeply to several issues within the church. Not only does Paul make his shift from resting in God’s love (chapters 1-3) to our response in the world (chapters 4-6), but also begins by highlighting some of the significant battles that every church faces:
I find it interesting that this is the way Paul begins to highlight the Christian distinctive. He has spent the first three chapters shaping our identity as God’s called, redeemed, and restored community. Chapter 1 of Ephesians is God’s amazing love letter, chapter 2 focuses on correcting some misunderstandings and lies we’ve believed, and chapter 3 shapes and transforms us for our calling. And then, having been officially commissioned, Paul says, “The first thing you do is work on staying united and loving each other.”
Because it’s common human practice: the more we grow in importance (or our own perceived importance) the less inclined we are to feel like we need others. We begin to exploit, devalue, and belittle others when they stand in the way of our goals. We see our calling as the only true one, and think everyone should cater to that.
So Paul reminds us that we are all needed, all valuable, and all need to be team players. Before he even dives into Christian ethics, he reminds us that we have been shaped by grace and are called to extend that to others. We find our greatest joy, not advancing our own agenda, but in remaining united in love to those around us.