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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. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”
Today, we continue our prayerful reflections on the theme of racial reconciliation. In yesterday’s devotion on Ephesians 1:10, we encountered God’s big plan for the cosmos, to gather together all things in Christ. This uniting of things in heaven and things on earth implicitly includes bringing together divided peoples. What is implicit in Ephesians 1 becomes explicit in Ephesians 2.
The most well-known passage in the second chapter of Ephesians announces that we have been saved by grace through faith (2:8). By God’s grace, we are reconciled to God through Christ. We are made alive in Christ (2:5), created in Christ for good works that God has prepared for us (2:10).
All too often, our understanding of God’s work in Christ ends here, with the reconciliation and recreation of individuals. But the second half of Ephesians 2 reveals another dimension of God’s saving work, the uniting of divided peoples. The text focuses on God’s work of bringing together Jews and Gentiles, groups that experienced profound disunity in the Roman world of the first century. Christ, through his death on the cross, broke down the division and hostility between Jews and Greeks, thus making peace. Notice that Christ sought to “reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross” (2:16). In this passage, reconciliation to God is not seen as an individual experience; rather, it is viewed as something that happens when formerly divided peoples have been united and then reconciled to God “in one body.”
Let’s be very clear. Yes, the cross of Christ makes possible our reconciliation to God as individuals when we receive God’s grace through faith (2:8). But the cross also reconciles divided peoples so that, together, we might be reconciled to God (2:14-16). This second dimension of reconciliation is not viewed in Ephesians as incidental or insignificant. Rather, it is part and parcel of God’s redeeming, renewing, and reconciling work through Christ. As Joy J. Moore, assistant professor of preaching at Fuller Seminary, writes in a recent issue of Fuller Magazine, “The biblical mandate is a reconciliation with God, with each other, and a reconciliation of the divided national ethnic groups of Genesis 11” ( “Working Together Toward Racial Reconciliation”).
Does the Ephesians 2 passage speak to racial divisions in our day? Yes, it does. The particular focus on Jews and Gentiles reflects the context of the first century, speaking to the racial-ethnic division that was at the center of Paul’s life experience and that of his people. Yet, the power of the cross to reconcile is not limited to Jews and Gentiles. Rather, it touches every kind of division among peoples, every kind of hostility that separates peoples into hostile factions. Because all human disharmony, including racial injustice and division, is a result of sin, Christ opened the way for reconciliation and peace among all peoples when he dealt with sin through the cross.
This peace is not just making nice. Biblical peace entails justice for all. It includes the liberation of captives and the righting of wrongs. Moreover, as Ephesians makes clear, peace among peoples is in the center of God’s big plan of uniting all things in Christ. It is an essential human dimension of God’s salvation.
In the next few days we’ll consider some implications of this truth for our life and leadership. For now, let me encourage you to reflect on Ephesians 2:14-16. I’d suggest that you read the whole chapter, paying attention to what God is saying to you through his Word. Then, you might consider the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When you think of the impact of the cross of Christ, do you tend to focus mainly on the implications for you as an individual? If so, how does the second half of Ephesians 2 stretch your thinking?
If peace between divided and hostile peoples is an essential aspect of Christ’s work on the cross, why do you think it has often been ignored by Christians?
How might your life and leadership be different if you took seriously the truth of Ephesians 2?
Gracious God, how thankful we are for your reconciling work in Christ. Apart from him, we would not be able to be reconciled to you. Apart from him, we would not be able to be reconciled to each other. Yet, through the cross of Christ, you have made reconciliation possible. You invite us to be reconciled to you and to each other. As this happens, your work of gathering all things in Christ advances.
O Lord, may your vision of reconciliation become my vision as well. May it guide and shape all that I do, especially in my leadership today. Amen.
Image Credit: “Coventry Cathedral burnt cross” by sannse – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Coventry_Cathedral_burnt_cross.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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