“… That he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (Ephesians 2:15-16, 19)”
Last week I quoted from Ephesians 2:13-19 and stated this should be the “Canon” we live by in bearing witness to Christ in this life and in the world to come. I want to focus on these verses to address the question I raised last week, “How do we preserve our witness as exemplified in Ephesians 2?”
Becoming one new person does not mean getting someone to convert to my point of view. St. Paul did not teach Gentiles to become Jews, nor Jews Gentiles. Too often we get bogged down in the need to be right, even in church discussions. Our goal is to win the argument and get the other person to accept our point of view. This can make life in our churches quite contentious. This was the problem St. Paul encountered in the church at Corinth. Sectarianism was strong:
My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
(1 Corinthians 1:11-13)
So also, in today’s time we have to guard against division in the church along political party lines, along liturgical practices, along covid practices. The list goes on. In Galatians 3, Paul makes the point very clear:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28)
So, if I can take the analogy from Ephesians further. When St. Paul says Christ has created one new man in the place of two. It would be like taking something made of tin and something made of steel, and then creating one new substance made of gold. So, no one wins and no one loses. The one new person made of gold may even have some features in it that bears some similarity to the previous substances. But the substance of gold is created in reference to the Kingdom of Heaven. Which takes us to the concluding verses from Ephesians cited above; as a new people made of gold we become “citizens with the saints and fellow members of the household of God.” We may be American citizens, and patriotism is fine; but we are first and foremost citizens of the household of God. We are to be faithful to our citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven, and this trumps everything else (no political pun intended here J).
When we lose this reference point to the Gospel and the Kingdom of Heaven, we lose the ability to have profitable and healthy discussions about the issues we encounter in the Church. My advice to all is to make worship a priority even in this time of Covid. We have all we need in the Church to help us make sense of the difficult concerns we face today. Don’t use social media to promote your agenda. I think it is quite dangerous for clergy in particular to take political stands in these platforms.
So moms and dads, if there is anything I said here that makes sense, talk with your children about these issues. Ask them to chew on what I have shared. Forgive me if I have failed to share anything useful here.
The blessing of the Lord be upon you.
With love in Christ,