11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
In Ephesus, Paul is writing to a church full of both Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) believers. In this section, he addresses how these two groups, which formerly despised each other, have now been united into one new people in Christ. The last sentence of this section is every Jesus follower's story: Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
Again, Paul writes about the new people God has made through Jesus. In our culture, there are so many different ways people try to distinguish and divide themselves from one another. But Paul says that Jesus "broke down the wall of hostility that separates us." With our identity in Jesus, we can no longer embrace and celebrate the things that divide people. Rather we have been given a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-21) where we celebrate Jesus who reconciles all people to God. The divisions we often cling to (race, political party, behaviors, preferences, etc.) have no place in the new people of God. Christ reconciles all people, who accept His invitation to new life, equally.
17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. 18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us
If all of this is true, then the Church is not a body of completely similar people. Rather it is an extremely diverse group of people who are only united in their confident hope in Jesus. So all of us can come to the Father through the same Spirit because of Jesus.
If Jesus has truly made us into new people, we must live in light of it. This new group of people does not create division by seeings differences as problems, but rather, celebrates the variety of people who are being reconciled to God in Christ. Practically, to image and reflect God in the world, we have to lay down our hostility towards people who are radically different than us and instead, embrace them with the love and invitation of Jesus himself.
- Is there anyone you have open hostility to? How can you seek reconciliation with them?
- Are there any behaviors or beliefs that people hold that make you angry? How can you show acceptance to those people?
- Ask God to make you into a new person -- marked by a life of reconciliation.
- Thank God that He has brought you near to Him even though you were once far away.
- Ask God to bring you into a relationship with someone radically different than you so that you can bless them with the love and invitation of Jesus.