Ephesians Day Nine
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God...This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2: 19; 3: 6
Not long ago I participated in a documentary entitled, "Breaking Down Barriers: Journeys of the Apostle Paul." The production was the collaborative efforts of Goshen College, FiveCoreMedia and Footstep Ministries and received a 2014 Telly Bronze Award for Religious TV Programming. While filming in Greece, I served as an on-site commentator on the life of Paul. The theme running throughout the video was the boldness of Paul's message in challenging the social stratification that was prevalent in the Jewish and Roman world of his day. The Jews had divided the world into two groups, Jews and Gentiles. The Greeks had done the same. The orator and lawyer Cicero once commented, "As the Greeks say, all men are divided into two classes--Greeks and barbarians." Paul offered a daring new paradigm for social equality. Breaking down barriers he asserted that before God there was "neither Jew nor Gentile."
He also addressed other social barriers including slavery, sexism, and economic prejudice. He courageously proclaimed a new way of viewing life in which "there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, there is no rich or poor." As expected, Paul encountered fierce opposition with every dividing wall he tried to break down.
I am sure the Apostle Paul would have enjoyed reading Robert Frost's "Mending Wall." It ties in so well with his words to the Ephesians. Here is an excerpt from the middle section.
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'
Paul challenged the Ephesian church to tear down their theological walls. In the past God had made a covenant with Israel based on obedience to Torah. Now Christ had come and annulled it, destroying it by his death and, through his blood, sealing a new covenant, a covenant for Jews and Gentile alike, a covenant for all who would trust in God through Christ. No longer were Gentiles "strangers and aliens." For Paul, they were now "fellow citizens, saints, and members of the household of God." Jesus is proof that God does not love walls! In fact, he is all about smashing them out of existence!
And yet, as William Barclay poignantly observed, "It is the tragedy of the Church that it is so often more exclusive than God." We keep re-erecting the very walls that Jesus broke down. We think it best to keep the apple orchard safe from the pine trees, while all the time muttering under our breaths something about "Good fences make good neighbors." Oh, the stubbornness of the human heart. What God has smashed down, let no one build back up! We are all sinners without hope. For God so loved the world...
What is it about fellowship with other Christians who are not exactly like you that you find disturbing? Why do you find it more comfortable to be with Christians just like you? Pray that God will open your heart to the greater household of faith.
"Christ for the world we sing;
Christ to the world we bring."