It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)
Every day I realize two things: my daughters and I are very similar and very different. It is an amazing thing to see pieces of your character and personality in the actions, words and expressions of your children, but it is even more amazing to see those unique creations reveal their individuality. I am finding that it is more my job to help my daughters discover who it is God has designed them to be than telling them who to be.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that discipline is never employed on either of them, but much of that is regarding what she is doing or why she is doing it, not who she is. I am humbled that God has entrusted this responsibility to me and my wife. Our only hope in being successful is to do all of this together, in unity. In fact, it is only through a strong unity that we will be able to guide our daughters into becoming strong and whole individuals.
So it is with our church family. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in perfect unity and we have been adopted into that unity through Christ’s sacrifice. However, it is only our participation in this unity that will bring us to maturity as individuals. I will even go so far as to say that it is nearly impossible to be a mature Christian without practicing the “unity” in community.
In the passage above, it is clear that Paul recognizes the uniqueness of each believer, while confirming the unity necessary to attain maturity. We need to remember that He gave us to one another. In this passage and others, Paul employs the illustration of the body to describe the greater community of Christians. It is important to note that no single part of the body exists for its own benefit, but for the benefit of the whole body.
If it is my desire to see my daughters become mature in Christ then I must live this model of community out in front of them and with them. This requires a change of perspective from my younger days of personal goals and dream jobs and my wants being met. My life is theirs (and my wife’s). I am working toward Paul’s confession, “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NIV) Isn’t it ironic that a community of strong, unique, and mature believers is rooted in selflessness?