I’ve been thinking a lot about the book of Ephesians lately and its relevance has particularly struck me over the last 24 hours. In brief, the book of Ephesians, as a number of Paul’s letters do, addresses the rift between Jews and Gentiles, and Paul does his best to work through the challenges.
But buried in the middle of the letter, Paul makes one of the most profound statements in all of Scripture: the unity that can, and should, exist among all of God’s people (aka “the church”) from every walk of life is actually the very thing that demonstrates “to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” “the manifold wisdom of God” (3:10) – wisdom that “from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God” (v. 9).
So check this out: the very thing that reveals God’s wisdom to the universe is when people from diverse backgrounds – in Paul’s case, Jews and Gentiles – come together in fellowship and mutual love. After all, it is not all that impressive when people who are alike love one another (as hard as this actually is); what is most remarkable is when people who are so different are so united.
Could this message not be more timely? It may not be specifically Jew or Greek these days; in fact, here in the United States, 50 years after the civil rights movement, and 150 years after slavery ended, racism continues to be a damning problem. Might the church have the opportunity to reveal, not only to the world, but to the onlooking universe, that people from diverse backgrounds can actually live together not only in toleration, but in love? And might this demonstration be the precise mechanism by which God’s wisdom is revealed – His character vindicated?
The devil is trying hard to divide us – because he has a vested interest in making sure God looks as bad as possible. He’s desperately trying to divide us into camps – Democrat, Republican, White, Black, American, Syrian, British, Progressive, Conservative, Liberal – knowing that the more we set our stakes down in camps, the harder it will be for us to demonstrate a united (though multifaceted) picture of God.
We can refuse to allow division to win the day, however. We can choose, instead, to show that God’s love is powerful enough to make us loving – even toward those who are so “different.”
Of course, none of this can be accomplished apart from the cross. That is one of Paul’s main points in Ephesians as well: God is seeking to reconcile “them both [Jew and Gentile] in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (2:16), and to ground us deeper and deeper in His love (3:14-21).
Beautifully, amazingly, though the current political and racial climate may look bleak, Paul encourages us: God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus” (3:20-21).
We often cite this last verse when it comes to our personal “wish list,” but the original context is what God is trying to do in, for, and through the church as a body (notice the plural pronouns “we,” “us,”): He’s trying to ground us in His love so that we experience a unity that demonstrates His “manifold wisdom” to the universe – thus showing forth His glory “in the church.”
We stand at a critical crossroads – but God has called us for “such a time as this.” Instead of fracturing, those who are honest of heart will press together, recognizing the awesome opportunity that is before us as we work jealously for God’s honor and Christ’s vindication.
So let’s allow God to work His power in and through us!