In our human nature, it is quite easy to become bitter, enraged, angry, and slanderous toward strangers in the world, particularly when we feel threatened, sense a difference of morals or values, or feel that our rights or expectations have been violated in some way. The world watches our violent behavior as we fight political battles, disengage coworkers, and dishonor or disrespect people in authority—whether a pastor, the President, or our bosses.
Paul has a straightforward command for this type of behavior: "Stop it!" These are selfish and self-seeking attitudes reflective of our former way of life which is corrupted and deceitful in its desires. Oftentimes, these sinful attitudes are not revealed until we are confronted by those who see things differently than us because of their own life experiences. When we're confronted with our sin, God invites us to confess it. By embracing diverse community, we learn to confess our sins to one another.
Once we confess, we must ask the Lord for help and commit to wholesome speech that is considerate and edifies others according to their needs. Paul instructs the church of Ephesus to be kind and compassionate to one another. This kindness and compassion is reflected in the right speech and our willingness to forgive when we are offended. Living in a fallen world, it's inevitable that we will hurt each other—intentionally and unintentionally. In light of those offenses, however, God empowers and compels us to forgive each other. By embracing diverse community, we learn to forgive one another.
Diverse Community Presents a Compelling Witness
The Apostle Paul was originally a persecutor of the church before God literally removed the blinders from his eyes and allowed him to see that the gospel was a message of reconciliation for both the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul was only able to teach what he had learned from his personal encounter with Jesus and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Before he lay down his rights and his life for the world, Jesus offered a prayer to his Father for all believers: "I pray also for those who will believe in me through [the apostles'] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:20-21).
Getting close to God is an important first step that draws us near to others. Paul understood this when he reminded the church in Ephesus of the gospel's intent to abolish the hostility between the Jews and Gentiles, and draw them together as one united and peaceful body (Ephesians 2:15-16). Christ "came and preached peace to you who were far away [the Gentiles] and peace to those who were near [the Jews]. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit (Ephesians 2:17-18)." Get close to God and your former enemy. This is the apostle's command.
Notice in Jesus' prayer, however, that he takes unity to another level. Where Paul calls us to get close, Jesus prays for us to get "in." He wants us to get "in" because the world is watching, and by getting "in," the world may believe that the Father has sent the Son. Jesus says that he is "in" or "one" with the Father, and that the Father is "in" or "one" with him. While the two are distinct persons and have distinct roles, our God is united in purpose and spirit.