By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you.” – Ephesians 4:3-4
Election in our country is a very divisive political exercise. Churches and communities are divided because of electoral politics. Close friends and neighbours supporting different political camps suddenly become enemies. Worst of all, election-related violence are quite rampant. Ironically, we have bloodless revolutions, but bloody elections.
Thus, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have to declare heightened alert during election time. Indeed, we are envisioning that time would come when our people would become politically mature, and thus election-related violence would just be a thing of the past.
But for the meantime, we have to deal seriously with the issue of national unity every election aftermath. Sure winners in the recently concluded midterm elections already proclaimed are now passionately calling for unity. They truly believe that without unity we could not move forward, and election promises would hardly be fulfilled.
Context of Ephesians
Our Biblical text from the Letter to the Ephesians is an earnest call for unity among the early Christian believers. The writer said, “Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you.” (Eph. 4:3-4).
The context of Ephesians is a context of disunity among members of the Christian community due to the growing number of Gentile Christians. Whereas earlier, Apostle Paul struggled so hard for the acceptance of Gentile-Christians to full membership in the Christian community without any requirements (like circumcision and observance of food laws), the situation now had totally changed. The Jewish-Christians already became a minority in the Christian communities, while the Gentile-Christians became the majority.
Consequently, some Gentile-Christians became arrogant and looked down on the Jewish-Christians. Sometimes Jewish-Christians were even forced to give up some of their traditions (like some purity laws) and to assimilate the Greek life in order to be accepted in the Christian community. The Jewish traditions were no longer appreciated and were even rejected.
After the Jewish War against the Romans (66-70 CE), strong anti-Jewish sentiment in the Roman Empire grew and influenced Christian communities. That’s why the author of Ephesians stresses so much the unity between Jewish-Christians and Gentile-Christians. This unity is part of God’s plan. The Christian churches have to manifest this plan.
The writer of Ephesians, who was probably influenced by Apostle Paul, addresses particularly the Gentile-Christians not to be arrogant against Jewish-Christians. He reminds them of their past when they were “far way from God” (Eph. 2:17), but they became part of God’s covenant with his people by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-10).
Unity as Gift of the Spirit
Unity is a gift of the Spirit. Where there is unity, the Spirit is there. Unity is the concrete manifestation of the Spirit at work. Unity comes when people love and care for each other. This was the experience of the Christian community in Jerusalem as recorded in the Book of Acts: “The group of believers was one in mind and heart. None of them said that any of their belongings were their own, but they all shared with one another everything they had. With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God poured rich blessings on them all. There was no one in the group who was in need.” (Acts 4:32-34). Loving and caring for one another leads not only to unity, but also abundant life for all.
However, the unity of the Christian community could be undermined if members become liars and pretenders. The unity of the Jerusalem Church was undermined when Ananias and Sapphira lied against the Spirit and pretended that they shared everything they had like Barnabas, but in reality they kept some for themselves. (cf. Acts 5).
Also, the unity of the Christian community was undermined when prejudices
and discrimination came in. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. (cf. Acts 6). The Jerusalem Church at that time was composed of Greek-speaking Jews coming from different places and local or native Jews from Jerusalem itself.
Call for Unity
Now, winning politicians calling for unity after a very divisive electoral exercise, should learn their lessons from the Early Christian communities and be guided accordingly. First of all, we should understand that unity comes only when people love and care for each other. Politicians who love and care only for themselves and their supporters and financiers could not expect unity among our people even with all their beautiful rhetorics.
Moreover, we should also bear in mind that unity could be undermined by lies, pretentions, and prejudices. Politicians who have lied, have poured out pretentious and empty promises before the masses of people, and have prejudicial attitude toward certain groups could not expect genuine unity among the citizenry.
But most of all, we should also remember always that unity is a gift of the Spirit. We could not attain genuine unity alone by ourselves; we need the Spirit working in us and among us. The Spirit is the Spirit of the Christ. To receive the gift of the Spirit of unity, we have to live the life of the Christ. Christ came “not be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf. Mk. 10:45). # nordis.net