14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, Ephesians 2:14 (NIV)
Archeologists working in Jerusalem have found two of these inscriptions in the ruins of Herod’s temple. This is a picture of one of them. It says, “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.” Not exactly a warm welcome was it!?
There was a lot of racially, fueled hostility, enmity, between Jews and Gentiles, and unfortunately that particular variety of wall, building of enmity has not died out.
Right now we are very familiar with this kind of barrier, because we still can’t seem to get along. We “wall” ourselves off from one another over everything from differences in political party affiliation to worship style preference, to race. Don’t get me wrong, most people want to get along, they want the walls to come down. Every once in a while we forget our differences long enough to rally around songs like, “We are the World” and the like, but the walls remain. On our own it’s next to impossible to bring the walls down, and when we do, someone just puts them back up again.
Bishop John Reed tells about a time he was driving a school bus in Australia, a bus that carried both white students and aborigine students. He grew tired of all the squabbling between the two groups as he drove them to and from school, and one day an argument broke out that was the last straw…so he pulled over to the side of the road and told the boys this kind of nonsense had to stop. He said that kind of behavior was a sin and would not be tolerated on his bus. Then he turned to the white boys and said, “What color are you?” They said, “We are white.” Reed said, “No…from now on you are green. Anyone who rides my bus is green. No what color are you?” The white boys replied, “green” Then he went to the Aborigines and said, “What color are you?” They said, “We are black.” He said, “No…from now on you are green. Anyone who rides my bus is green.” “Now what color are you?” And the Aborigines students said, “We are green.” The situation seemed to be resolved until several miles down the road, he heard a boy in the back of the bus announce, “Alright, light green is on this side, dark green is on that side!”
Bishop Reed had the right idea. What was needed was the unity of a new race…like his “green race.” But he couldn’t pull it off, because no human can. To bring down the barriers, the walls, that separate humanity, to accomplish this kind of demolition requires the power of God, because the real problem is never a wall between men, between races, between political parties or whatever, the real problem behind all these walls is the wall that existed between the fallen human race and our Holy God. This “wall” is why people can’t get along.
Our lack of peace between each other for whatever reason can always be traced to our sin, sin that “walls” us off from God. Racism is not really a SKIN problem but rather a SIN problem.
The reason there is enmity between man and man, is that there is enmity between man and God. The fact that we are born sinful, fallen beings, this is what fuels selfish, prideful hatred like the Jews felt toward the Gentiles. And sin continues to fuel hate and hate prompts us to build walls between each other today. A few verses later Paul explains, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:16 (NIV)
Paul is saying that it’s natural for man to have hostility and hate, to hate God and hate other people. Christ came to earth to do some needed demolition.
He came to tear down this wall of enmity that exists between us and God. He came to make it possible for our sins to be washed away so we could be forgiven…and come near to God. As Paul puts it in verse 2:18, “Through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit.” In that relationship, when we come to God by grace through faith in Jesus…we can then be empowered to love all people as He loves all people.
This is something the church must get right. To be effective we can’t have any walls, especially racial ones. I can understand why non-believers build these kinds of walls, but Christians don’t have any excuse. We have experienced God’s grace, we know by first, hand experience that He loves all people equally, so when we don’t get this right we are being outright disobedient against God. God’s people should always work to end racial discrimination, be it individual or systemic.
Jesus brought the wall down. And in so doing, He created peace. He created one man from the two. In essence He made a new race, not the “Greens” but the “forgiven(s).” Paul’s point here is that we need to be made right with God before we can have the power to be right with each other. Only as we experience the forgiveness of Jesus can the walls come down.
Warren Wiersbe tells of the time a man came into his office and said that his marriage needed help. He told Wiersbe , “My wife and I need a re-cancellation.” Of course he meant, “reconciliation” but in a sense “re-cancellation” was the right word. After all, these two spouses had sinned against each other and the Lord and there could be no harmony, the wall that separated them could not come down, until they repented and asked Jesus to forgive their sins, to cancel them out. That was our problem before Christ came. Our problem was sin, so God sent His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins, thereby revealing His love and meeting the demands of His righteousness. It was truly a “re-cancellation.”
When people are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, there is no longer Jew nor Gentile. As His blood washes away our sins, it reveals that we are the same in God’s eyes. Walls come down and we become truly one in this new “structure” God built called the church.
Think about that for a minute. God took two groups as diametrically opposed to each other as Jews and Gentiles. He took them, and when He saved them, He unified them, unified them to the point where the two became one race. God the builder broke down the barriers that separated them. He abolished the hatred and enmity between them. He destroyed the divisions, brought down the barriers and He brought them peace.
Because Jesus is my peace, I choose to live in peace. Will you join me?