Read: Ephesians 2:11-22
Reflect: If left alone, and absent from the influence of God, the natural thing is for people to create divisions and barriers. For example, we have divisions as to how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and have divisions and warring camps in the political/ideological arena. Echo chambers of fiery political rhetoric on the airwaves operate at full volume every day. We’re all aware of the familiar cliché cures for these disputes: “We’re all in this together”; “Can’t we just agree to disagree”; “We should stop talking at each other and start talking to each other.”
In Ephesians 2 Paul addresses an issue of two groups historically separated by a deep theological and cultural divide. As a scholarly Jew now expanding the reach of the Gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles, Paul explains and assures the Ephesians (who were mostly Gentile) of their inclusion and good standing in God’s family. He acknowledges, based on his Old Testament training and traditions, the naturally occurring historical differences separating the Jews and the Gentiles. The spiritually proud Jews thought of themselves more highly than the Gentiles because of their natural heritage, religious ceremonies and traditions, and thus viewed the Gentiles through the lens of exclusion. Gentiles found their spiritual value and worth in personal achievement, power and position. As true then as now, spiritual pride blinds us to our own faults and magnifies the faults of others.
Jesus freely forgives the sins of both groups. No one is alienated from Christ’s love and redeeming power as He breaks down the walls of prejudice and unites us all in one body and draws us near to God. Everyone who knows and follows Jesus owes their nearness to God only because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. Both Jew and Gentile now only had one way of salvation to reach God and that was available solely through Jesus. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can become validated citizens of God’s Kingdom; an adopted member of His family; and a child dwelling safely in His house.
Apply: We can intellectually and academically comprehend and understand the ability and power of Jesus to break down barriers. In John 4, Jesus invested two days reaching out in love and reconciliation with the despised and excluded Samaritans, the worst enemies of the Jews. Right there is an example of a bridge made over the divide of politics and ideological divisiveness. Following Jesus’ example, we know we need to listen better, be more civil, and invest time talking and listening as Jesus did. However, when raw emotions enflame our pride in our own worldview to the dismissal of others and their views, we totally miss the message of unity within the Church that Paul sent to the Ephesians. This emotion driven mindset and thinking can damage and destroy unity within the Body of Christ. Personally, at times, I’ve fallen into this temptation as I have upheld a rigid and inflexible ideology thinking that my preferences are the only correct views. At times I have progressed to the notion that God can better carry out His Kingdom work only if the correct ideology (mine) prevails; if only the right people are elected to serve in government; if only the right judges are appointed. We assume that all this can make God so much more effective in advancing His Kingdom agenda. The Bible clearly puts no such limits on God and His sovereign power. God is not confined to operate within truth created by man. It is His design that we operate within the confines of obedience to His will and His truth alone. How rigid and unyielding is your worldview? When was the last time you engaged in a thoughtful and productive conversation with someone with a differing view? Ask the Holy Spirit to bring you under God’s grace and center you on a healthy Biblical worldview based on the unifying love of Jesus found in Ephesians 2. Pray and meditate as to how you might share this with others in a gentle and respectful way. (1Peter 3:15)
Fred Stehman is a Charter Member of GCC and serves as Lay Delegate to the Evangelical Congregational National Conference as well as being a member of the GCC Ministry Council. Fred is active in GCC Men's Ministry and actively supports SportXchange Int'l Ministries