A few Sundays ago, a guest preacher delivered a homily (I like that word; it has more class and specificity than merely a ‘message’) at our home church, regarding unity, specifically the unity of Believers.
The idea of unity has stood out to me of late, how various people espouse unity but its merely a front, a cute idea without any meat. Recently the Springboks played the Canucks in the Rugby World Cup taking place right now in Japan, and on this particular work day, the televisions in the production area were on (with sound on low) showing the Springbok game live.
The singing of the national anthem by South Africans asserted that “united we shall stand…” however it suddenly occurred to me that I was listening to sentimentality instead of fact. Hardly a day goes by when there is not some controversy in the media about happenings in our country, and I work and live among a large contingent of local South Africans who wholeheartedly and chauvinistically support the New Zealand national team, especially when they are playing against the Springboks.
The apartheid government was no less hypocritical than the lyrics to the national anthem, with a coat-of-arms that proclaimed ‘Unitate Ex Vires’ (strength in unity). Groups of people are seldom truly united. Its different with the Bride of Christ.
Or at least there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be.
And so, some days later I found myself in the rare quiet of a morning reading through the passage in Ephesians:
Believers are united to each other because we are primarily united to Him. Reading through the passage, certain words/ideas recur: that God the Father has put thought and consideration into the church and the Believers who make up the Body.
Paul insists that being Believers is strongly and definitively part of his will:
- Paul was an apostle by the will of God (1:1)
- Believers are predestined to be adopted by his will (1:5)
- His mysterious will is revealed, to unify creation (things in heaven and earth) under Christ (1:9 – 10)
- He works out everything in conformity with his will (1:11)
The Father’s foreknowledge of and grace for us is seen:
- He predestined us in love to be adopted (1:4 – 5)
- He chose us before the creation of the world (1:4)
- He gave us his grace freely (1:6)
- In fact He lavished it on us (1:8)
- We were predestined according to his plan (1:11) and his plan will work out
His mighty power selected us, saves us and keeps us:
- When we believed we were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (1:13 – 14), a guarantee of our inheritance
- His power to fulfil our hope is the same resurrection power that raised Christ (1:19 – 20)
The fact that you are a believer or may one day be, can be attributed to the will of God. God foreknowing those who are His, He sets our destiny, an eternal appointment to take our lives in His direction. Its a sure thing because the power over death (resurrection power) is at life in the Christian, and in this we share a unity that the world cannot understand.
The Springboks have won the Webb-Ellis trophy twice in its 32 year history. As a trophy, it is coveted. Any rugby nation would want to win it and retain the trophy every four years. For the supporters in a rugby nation, either a win or a loss binds them together in misery or elation.
Paul’s letter to the Philippians paints the picture that we as believers are pressing on to a prize, although it’s not a trophy or recognition:
The prize is participating in the race. The goal is Christ.
Since the Springboks last won the Rugby World Cup in 2007 under the coaching of Jake White, the innocence for me has been lost. There’s too much politics involved in sport. Too many selfish personalities, different agendas. My relationship with the Springboks is complicated. Honestly, I also have an affinity for the Home Unions.
I’ve found that the unity amongst believers is more significant and authentic than support for a national rugby team. I don’t mind Bok Fridays. But I love Sunday mornings more.