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08.22.10 Breaking Down the Walls that Divide Us, Ephesians 2:11-22, Sermon Summary

by on August 23, 2010

Summary Points

  • Christ breaks down 3 walls that divide us: between ourselves, between us and God, and throughout the world.
  • The key to reconciliation is love in action. This is exemplified and taught by Christ.
  • To love this way requires “reframing” in faith.

This passage from Ephesians primarily addresses the religious wall that divided the people of God at the time of its writing. But there are also two other walls that are broken down thanks to the revelation that comes in Jesus Christ.

(1) The first wall is that between Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus. Ephesians refers to the wall of hostility created by the Law. The Law refers to the ethical code received from God that distinguished the ancient Israelites from their neighbors. Adherence to the Law was epitomized by the rite of circumcision.

There were two unintended consequence of distinguishing God’s people by use of the Law: it created a bureaucratic religion in which only a few had access to God; and it made those few arrogant. Jesus preached a God who was accessible to everyone outside of the Law. By doing so, he made “friends” out of traditional, religious enemies: Jews and Gentiles could both belong to the people of God.

Jesus didn’t do away with the Law, however, or discount its value, and neither does Ephesians. Instead, Jesus represents the necessary cornerstone that joins an archway in a spiritual Temple. One side of the archway represents faithful Jews who observe the Law; the other side faithful Gentiles who do not. Or in the words of Ephesians, this temple is established on the foundation of the prophets (a reference to the Older Testament and Judaism in general) and the apostles (a reference to the Newer Testament and Christianity in general).

Ephesians employs another image, that of the body, to depict the unity in Christ between Jews and Gentiles. And here’s why this passage in Ephesians is so important. In order for the building to stand, or the body to be healthy, each part, Jewish and Gentile, must find and fulfill its role in the community. Ephesians 4:15-16 says, “we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”

The point: we must be neither Jews nor Gentiles. We cannot discount or prohibit others on the basis of religious traditions, nor can we dismiss ourselves from responsibility to serve in the church. We all need each other. Our church faces ministry and budget challenges, all of which can be easily overcome if each of us finds and fulfills our role in the church.

(2) Another wall broken down by Christ is that wall we believe exists between us and God. This is the wall the Bible calls sin, and it no longer divides humanity from God thanks to Jesus. We might think it does, but actually it does not.

At one time, this passage says, the Gentiles were without God in the world, and without hope. But Ephesians 1:4 says that these same Gentiles were predestined before the creation of the world. How, then, could they actually be without God and hope in the world, when in fact God had them in mind before creation? The dividing wall of sin is an illusion, one revealed when viewed with eyes of faith. Christ has overcome that wall also

(3) Hearing about the walls of religious bigotry and sin being overcome by Christ, I have to wonder about other walls of hostility. What about the walls that divide modern day Israel and the Palestinians, North and South Korea, Pakistan and India, that divide the United States and Afghanistan and Iraq? Can these be overcome in Christ? Do we dare hope? If our answer is “no,” or if our “yes” is dripping with skepticism, let me suggest we meditate on how Christ has broken down the other two walls. What we need is to practice reframing.

Reframing is deliberately looking at a situation from another perspective. A piece of artwork looks entirely different depending on the frame you put it in. Ephesians calls us to reframe our lives with the person of Jesus Christ. In the words of Ephesians, “You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

So how do we do this? How do we reframe our lives according to the assertion that “Jesus is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14)? In a word, the answer is love. “God so loved the world,” the famous John 3:16 says, “that God sent the Son.” Divine love, the force that makes peace in the world, is active. Love actively serves those who are not a peace with us.

Jesus’ example of love should be enough to guide us. But he also preached about how to love, especially how to love one’s enemies. He taught that when struck on one cheek, we are to turn the other cheek; and after walking one mile with our enemy, to continue to walk a second mile. This is a call to faith, it is a call to reframe.

Turning the other cheek is reframing to say, “I have two cheeks. I have resources available to me to keep me from reacting with violence against this violence.” Walking the second mile refers to the requirement by Rome that all citizens of occupied territories had to carry a Roman soldier’s equipment for one mile. To walk the second mile says, “I had to do the first mile. That was out of my choosing. But I can regain my freedom by choosing to go the second mile.”

To follow Jesus is to follow the Prince of Peace. To do that, we have to experience reconciliation with God, with one another in the church, and work for reconciliation in the world. We have to recognize the walls are broken down because in Jesus is our peace. We have to reframe our lives in faith, and love others as God has loved us. Only then can we break down the walls that divide us.

Thoughts for Further Reflection

  • Are you more like an Ephesian Jew or Gentile? Do you hold others at a distance because of your religion, or are you tempted to sit on the sidelines and watch religion happen around you?
  • How would your life change if you really believed that the presence and hope of God were more real than the wall of sin?
  • In what ways can you and the church become peacemakers, whom Jesus said were “children of God”?
  • Pick something in your life and find a new frame for it. Read the Bible looking for different frames, write them down, and look at your life and others’ through a new frame.
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One Comment
  1. Cindra Visser permalink

    I have missed your sermons. You have always been very good at teaching others how to step back and “reframe” their current view.

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