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peacemakers and a new humanity

September 1, 2011

Ephesians 2:11-18 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  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.

Ancient history? Paul writes about the deep division in the society of his day between Jews and Non Jews – to us, looking back over 2000 years of history it just seems irrelevant to us in the modern world, but there is a really important thing that is relevant for us in our life and faith today.

The fact is that God always intended everyone to benefit from his amazing love, grace and mercy (see yesterdays blog). The Jewish nation tended to think that they were the only people who could experience God. They were on the inside track, they were born into the right family, went through the right ceremonies (circumcision), followed the right rules… so they interpreted the rules and guidance about purity as giving them exclusive rights to Gods favour and attention. Hence Non Jews were outside, separate, excluded, hopeless, Godless.

But the rules, like not marrying into other nations and not worshipping other gods, were intended to mark the Jews out as a special people who knew Gods blessing. God wanted the Jews to share that blessing with “all nations of the earth” as God made clear to Abraham. We also discover that when Jonah (the prophet famous for being swallowed by a whale) was told to go to the pagan city of Nineveh, he is reluctant to go because he knows that God will restore them if they repent! God makes it crystal clear that his desire is that they do repent and are restored!

The new reality is that everyone now comes to God through faith in Jesus and his death and resurrection. The Jewish system of getting to God has been “set aside”, (it’s “commands and regulations” were never of much use anyway as people could not follow them perfectly). Now there is a new way to gain access to God, a new peace available through what Jesus did. So the purpose of God in blessing all nations is now being carried out in Jesus. Both Jew and Non Jew, both law keeper and pagan are offered a place in the new reality, anyone – from anywhere, can come into Gods family.

That has a huge impact for us, we know we are valued and accepted; it also has a huge impact on the way that we accept (or exclude) others. As God broke down the barriers that separated Jew and Non Jew, so we are expected to treat others with respect. Everyone – from the poorest to the richest, from the blackest to the whitest, from the youngest to the oldest is someone that God wants in this new family – made in the image of God. Who do we automatically exclude from Gods blessing in our minds? Who do weneed to make peace with today?

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