Ephesians 2:11-22 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and …
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. . . . for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
When I was young, my father had an extensive rock collection which he kept in the workshop in our basement. He built special shelves and drawers for the collection. The shelves included these little boxes that had dividers within them so that the different types of rocks could be segregated. So the quartz rocks went in this slot, the micah fool’s gold went in this box, and the petrified dinosaur doo doo had its very own section. He even had some semiprecious stones like amethysts and tourmalines and topaz and rose quartz.
I thought of that rock collection as I was reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Paul was addressing the boxes and divisions that we create with the different people and groups in our lives. We create boxes with defined divisions. This person fits in that box. That person fits in this box. We may even put God in a box, defining his corners and edges.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he is writing to a church that is struggling with issues between Jewish and Gentile believers. Jews and Gentiles were separated by politics, heritage, blood line, race and religion. One of the biggest issues facing the early church was whether Gentiles had to convert to Judaism in order to become Christians. Some of the Jewish converts thought that the Gentile converts needed to be circumcised and to follow other Jewish customs and laws in order to be proper followers of Christ. Some of the Gentiles looked down on the Jewish converts and thought that believers should completely break from the Old Testament ways. Each side thought they knew the best way to be Christians, and these attitudes caused deep divisions which led to hostilities.
We see these deep divisions and rivalries today. We of course live in the South and we have all seen some pretty deep football rivalries, but I am talking about rivalries and divisions that go way beyond football. We seem to be living in a climate and culture of deep political divisions and tensions. We also have religious divisions, racial divisions, international divisions, cultural divisions, economic divisions. In our families, we have sibling rivalries, and divisions among parents and children. We have cliques in high school and beyond. And through all of this diversity and dissension, we have grown into the habit of labels and classification. If this person is this, then they must believe that. This person is a square peg, so they must fit into to the square hole. That person is a round peg, so they must fit into that round hole. We can fall into a habit of making automatic assumptions, or automatic judgments. And sometimes we become entrenched in our opinions, even becoming hostile.
Paul, a Jew, whose mission was to the Gentiles, is addressing these hostilities. He reminds the Ephesians, and us, that Jesus broke down these walls of hostility. Jesus proclaimed peace, not division.
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him, both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
You know, Jesus may very well have been the one to originate the saying Think outside the box. Look at his ministry. He crisscrossed the region bringing healing and hope to all. He preached to crowds that included Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, sick, well, soldiers, farmers, fishermen, lawyers, priests, women and children. He preached to them all, he healed all kinds of people, and he shared with them all the same message. Come to me, all you who labor and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle, and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Jesus preached the gospel of salvation, his yoke was one of reconciliation. Reconciliation to God and Reconciliation to one another. Jesus told us to love God with all our heart and mind and soul, and then our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus came to knock down the walls of hostility between us that may exist because of our differences. Because you see, out of our love for God, and his love for us, flows our love for one another.
So after sharing this message with the crowds, Jesus sent most folks back to their homes to keep doing their everyday work. Soldiers continued to be soldiers, tax collectors were still tax collectors, farmers were still farmers. They were called however to do their work and live their lives in light of their new status as heirs of eternal life.
We each have an individual calling. We each are a unique living stone placed by God in our particular place and time. As part of his rock collecting, my Dad had a Rock Tumbler. He was able to pick out certain rocks, they all looked like gray lumps to me, but he knew which ones were which, and he would put some in the tumbler and it would roll around and hit the sides and maybe other rocks, and it would come out and it would be a beautiful stone that looked like colored glass, reflecting light and shining and beautiful.
If you think about it, our lives are lived in rock tumblers. We roll around, sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it may be monotonous, and sometimes it hurts. In the process we may rub up against each other, but hopefully we smooth out each other’s edges. As we tumble through our lives, our relationships, our work, we begin to shine more and more with the inner light of Christ. Jesus within us gives the depth and the fire to the precious stones that we are. As we live into His peace, his reconciliation, his love, he begins to shine in us and through us to the world around us. Breaking down the walls of hostility, and instead joining us as living stones, forming the temple of God , with Jesus as the chief cornerstone.