The next couple of posts will be my final essays from my Scripture meditation assignments for Systematic Theology III. This round we were to read and re-read and re-read…Ephesains 2:11-3:13 and Revelation 19-22. I’ll start off with my thoughts after pondering the Ephesians passage.
Over the course of my life, I have lived in four different cities. There is something eerily similar about these four locations. If you looked at a map of each town, you could draw a line through each one that would function much in the same way. On one side of the line you could write “white”. On the other side of the line you could write “black”. Certainly, it would be a general distinction. Not everybody who lives on the “white side of town” is white, and not everybody who lives on the “black side of town” is black. Still, the distinction is there, and it means something. It means that even though there are no longer any Jim Crow laws there is still a functional segregation that exists in each one of my cities. It is a kind of segregation that at least affects the geographical demographics.
I am not bitter or burdened toward any of my hometowns over this reality. I am sure there are a number of other complex reasons this phenomenon exists, and I am more sure that my towns are not the only place where it exists. What is certainly tragic, however, is when this same sort of division happens in our Lord’s body, the church.
In Ephesians 2:11-3:13, Paul instructs the Ephesian church regarding the unity between Jew and Gentile due to Jesus’ cross-work. Any number of cultural barriers existed between these Jewish Christians and their Gentile counterparts. Their languages varied; their clothing styles didn’t match; their eating habits differed, and even though they were both now professing Christ, each group had a wildly dissimilar religious background that could especially make the Jews uncomfortable. In light of all these multi-faceted and deep-seated disparities, Paul writes, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off [referring to the Gentiles] have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13). How has this ethnic separation been overcome? “By the blood of Christ.” Paul then says, “For he himself is our peace” (2:14). How is peace achieved between these warring races? By rallying around the crucified Prince of peace. Paul goes on, “[He] has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (2:14). How are two rivaling factions made one? How is the barrier of bitterness overcome? “In his flesh.” That is, his flesh that was torn asunder on Calvary. Finally, Paul declares, “[Jesus worked to] reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (2:16). Ethnic animosity, then, among God’s people received its death blow in the slaughter of the Son of God. His purpose was to bring us both home to our Creator, to make us into “one new man” (2:15)
For me as a disciple of Jesus to not long for, work for, pray for, and hope for reconciliation between brothers and sisters of different ethnicities is to deny the Lord Christ one of the central reasons for which he was pierced through. For me as a pastor of Jesus’ church to not preach for and lead toward unity amongst variously skin-colored Christians is, then, to prove myself spineless and no way worthy of the title “gospel minister”.