Though our situations might differ from that of the first Christians, we still find ourselves in conflicted relationships. Sometimes warring factions take up sides in the workplace. Sometimes this happens in families or churches. Often, this happens throughout a world shattered by racism, sexism, materialism, and a variety of other injustices. But God is not satisfied with our status quo. Christ died to bring an end to the hostilities that divide us and to form us into new communities that mirror the very unity of God.
Sometimes, if I’m going to be honest, there are times when I am eager for a bit of glory, times when I want to be recognized for my good work, times when I want someone to say to me, “Good job, Mark!” I don’t think this is altogether wrong. The problem is that I can easily fall into the trap of seeking my glory above all else. When this happens, my motivations are out of alignment, the longings of my heart are out of place. So, what helps to correct my course? What helps me to yearn for God’s glory most of all?
Christ opened up a new avenue to salvation, a new way for all people to be in relationship with God. All people have sinned, including both Jew and Gentile. And all people are saved by God’s grace offered through the death of Christ. Thus, the law no longer functions to support the hostile division between Jews and Gentiles… As we consider the implications of what Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross, it is sadly ironic that so many Christians have rebuilt a wall of hostility between believers and non-believers.
This passage from one of Paul’s letters instructs Timothy—and us as well—to pray for all people, including “kings and all those in authority.” Even though it doesn’t say explicitly, “pray for the American president,” the implications of the text are pretty clear. Among those for whom we pray, we should certainly include our political leaders, no matter whether we agree with them or not, no matter whether we like them or not.
Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for tearing down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Thank you for tearing down walls of hostility in our world today, walls between individuals, family members, coworkers, racial-ethnic groups, political parties, and nations. But, Lord, so many walls still exist that divide people from each other. These walls stir up hatred and stimulate violence. So I ask you, Lord, tear down these walls!
What does it mean for Christ to be our peace? When we hear this, we may be inclined to think of “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, [guarding] your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:7). But, in fact, the peace of Ephesians 2:14 is not this kind of inner peace. When we read this verse in context, we see that peace has to do with ending the hostility between Jews and Gentiles and forging a new relationship of unity in Christ.
Do you ever feel spiritually dry? Does your soul ever seem to be hard as a rock? Do you ever worry about whether you will ever again be tender and open toward the Lord? … Most Christians do experience times in which our souls are so dry that they seem hard as a rock. We know we should spend devotional time with God, but the fact is we don’t want to… We still believe all the things we used to believe about God. But our desire for him has disappeared, and we’re left with stony souls.
When I was young, I loved superheroes… Most superhero movies have more or less the same storyline: something really bad happens; things are desperately wrong and hopeless; then, a superhero shows up to save the day. A similar narrative appears in Ephesians 2, twice, in fact. In the first half of the chapter, we are dead in our sins, in bondage to sinful desires and the devil, and deserving God’s judgment. But God intervenes…
In the last fifteen years, we witnessed the rise of the so-called “new atheists.” Led by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, atheism received considerable attention in the media. The number of people in the U.S. identifying themselves as atheists rose slightly… Our word “atheist” comes directly from the Greek atheos (a-theos, not-god). In the whole Bible, including the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word shows up only once. It’s in Ephesians 2:12.
Paul assumes that God’s life is to be experienced in and through the community of God’s people. Though we can know God personally as individuals, this knowledge is mediated and nurtured through shared experience of God. God did not reveal himself independently to a dispersed group of individual Jews. Rather, God made himself known to the people of Israel, to whom he revealed his “covenants of promise” and sent his Messiah.