For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Ephesians 2:14-16

 

Why did Christ die on the cross? What was his purpose in dying?

Christians would tend to answer that question by saying something like, “Christ died for our salvation. He took on the penalty for our sin so that we might be forgiven, so that we might be reconciled to God forever.” I believe this is profoundly and wondrously true. But it doesn’t capture the full purpose of Christ.

Two men fistbumping each other on a train.In last week’s devotions, we saw that Christ tore down the “dividing wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles through his death on the cross. His sacrifice not only secured salvation for individuals, but also paved the way for the end of hostility between communities of people.

What was Christ’s purpose in bringing an end to human divisions and hostilities? Ephesians 2:15-16 offers a two-part answer to this question: “His purpose was [1] to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and [2] in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross.” The original Greek of part one speaks literally of creating “one new human being” (hena kainon anthropon) out of the two groups. Notice that this act of new creation is referred to as “making peace.” With this language, Paul underscores the fact that peace isn’t merely the ending of hostility between groups in conflict. Rather, it is also forming a new community of grace, love, and justice, a community with profound and pervasive unity.

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.

Something to Think About:

As you think about your life and relationships, are you a peacemaker?

Where are you helping relationships or communities to experience the “one new humanity” of Christ?

Something to Do:

Ask the Lord to show you how you can live into the peacemaking, “new-human-being-making” work of Jesus today. As the Spirit moves you, follow God’s lead.

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for not casting us off, for seeing in us the potential to become what you had intended us to be from the beginning. Thank you for acting in Christ to bring an end to the hostility between people, to forge a positive, all-encompassing peace.

Lord, as you know, this peace eludes us most of the time. In our closest relationships, such as in our families, we often create conflict and live with disunity. The same is true in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our churches, and our cities. Then, Lord, there is the wider world, so broken by violence, hostility, and injustice. May the peace of Christ make a tangible difference in our lives and our world, even as we await the day when your peace, your shalom, will fully and finally transform all things. Amen.

 

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
The Ethics of Conflict (Luke 6:27-36; 17:3-4)

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