Wednesday, May 11, 2011

ONE NEW HUMANITY

Ephesians 2:14-18

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. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Rainbow in My Hand by Gwen Meharg
God never intended for a great barrier of hostility to exist between the Jews and the other nations.  God only intended for the Jews to be set apart and used for God's glory with the result being that other peoples and nations would see the difference between the Living God and the false gods they were worshiping.  He wanted the other nations to see that He was a God of grace and mercy and love, that He created them and would therefore care and provide for them, and that He NEVER demanded the sacrifice of their children to appease His anger.  But, instead of the nations always seeing that through the Jews relationship with the Living God, the Jews shut them out and soon it developed into an "us" against "them" mentality.  But, to be fair, if I was part of a nation that God used to wipe out entire people groups, I might gain that mentality myself.  It would be easy to get confused in such a situation.  What's important to remember here is that God didn't wage war on people groups to prove the superiority of the Israelites, He did it to prove His own superiority as the God of gods, the Living God over all the other gods in a world where many, many false gods were being heavily worshiped and to whom children were being sacrificed. (Romans 1:20-25 and Jeremiah 7:31-32 and Leviticus 20:2, Deuteronomy 9:4-5)

Painting of Nineveh capital of Ashur ca 700 BC
The book of Jonah is such a great example of God's great mercy and grace to the other nations. When God sent Jonah to warn the Ninevites that judgment and wrath were coming to them, Jonah ran away.  He would have sooner drowned in the sea than give the Ninevites opportunity to turn to God.  The Ninevites were part of "them" -- they were Gentiles and enemies of Israel.  Jonah did finally give them God's message, albeit very begrudgingly, the Ninevites repented and turned to God for mercy.  Guess what God did?  He extended mercy to them and told Jonah,
"And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:11, NIV)
Any move towards God and God reaches out His long arm of mercy and grace, rescues those that were lost and far away and brings them near where they find peace.

God had commanded the Jews to care for the the foreigner and alien.  Any foreigner or alien who became one of their servants or who sought refuge with the Israelites was to be included as one of the Israelites:
"When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:33-34, NIV
They were to be allowed to glean from their harvest fields and the Jews were commanded to leave what was dropped and to leave the corners of their fields alone so the poor and hungry, no matter who they were, could eat.
"When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:9-10
There is no place in God's economy or law for "us" and "them."


Paul points out that in Christ, through His sacrifice, there is no dividing line.  The Jews no longer have to follow all of the rules and regulations that kept them separate from the other nations.  The Jews are no longer the only ones through whom God speaks and shows Himself mighty.  We see all of that now as one body of believers, one church through which Jesus Christ is worshiped as King and Savior and through whom we all have access to the Living God -- Jew and Gentile alike.  He brought peace to all the nations -- whether we live into it or not.  Christ and no one else has solved the problem of our relationship with God and with each other.

Remember, Paul's objective in the letter to the Ephesians is to take them higher and help them rise above the day to day sins that beset each of us, to root them deeper into the truth of God's word and to widen their scope of understanding about who God is and His purpose for humankind.  He's telling them and us, "Enough with the walls and barriers you put up between you and them.  In Christ, those walls and barriers DO NOT exist.  Out of the two worlds, Jew and Gentile, Christ has made a new creation.  One that is at peace.  One that strives to love each other.  One that no longer emphasizes the differences, but embraces the unity of Christ's sacrifice for all."  We are one in Christ.

In unity,
Kerry

1 comment:

sweetannieskitchenblog said...

Great post, and really great perspective!