July 19th 2015
I’d like to share this scripture from Ephesians with you.
Ephesians 2:11-22English Standard Version (ESV)
One in Christ…addressed to Gentile Saints
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called “the circumcision”, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time called separated from God, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now because of Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by him. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, and so making peace, and he might reconcile us both to God in one body, thereby killing the hostility.
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
The former premise stated that anyone not of the Jewish faith did not have access to God and all the blessings God reserved for his chosen people. But since Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God,…the new reality…everything had changed. The author proclaimed that Jesus changed everything. He tore down the dividing wall between peoples. The author invoked the term “peace” to describe what replaced division and hostility. Peace was what Jesus proclaimed for both Jew and Gentile. And God’s kingdom (or Empire) was to be all inclusive.
Two other images spring from our text. First is the phrase “household of God”. All were welcome and on equal terms in God’s household. Second was the challenge that the new humanity then became a “holy temple in the Lord” in the kingdom where God’s Spirit dwelled. These people were not admonished to put away their differences…instead the author stated that God, in using Jesus, had already done that.
We know there is much animosity and competition in today’s world. One only has to read a newspaper or turn on a TV to see that. Where is that peace and community Jesus taught? By our own choices, mankind has chosen a different path. Most of that alienation is brought about by our prejudices and greed.
Let us think about it for ourselves though. Let us ask ourselves…who do we feel as being “the other” or “different” or a “foreigner”? How does this feeling change the way we look at them and treat them? Or does it?
Back in the early 2000’s Bob was instrumental with Howard Bredesen in forming the Pinch organization. It was meant as an advocate for the black community here in Coffeyville. But first of all, it was necessary for the us in the white community to become acquainted with folks from that black community. We knew that would be necessary for us to learn to work together and trust one another. I did not join the organization because I felt Bob needed to work within it himself and I knew I was too outspoken to be a peaceful advocate. So until Bob died, he was the one who participated. Once when a black woman was discriminated against by the local police department, they had me write a letter of protest for them and send it to the editor of the newspaper. And I did that. But basically Bob and Howard led the way for the organization.
After Bob was gone, I was asked to join in his place. So, as long as I was not working, I did. Several times our organization was asked to advocate for a member of the black community or the Hispanic community who were being discriminated against. The Pinch organization advocated for them and with them to be sure of a fair outcome. And over the years, we learned to know and love these people.
It’s difficult to overcome our preconceived differences until we learn to be friends.
Proclaiming peace is difficult… especially if we have not discovered it in ourselves. Yet, peace is something everyone wants, yet few seem to find. Money can’t buy it and no one else can give it to us. We have to discover it for ourselves.
So, what is peace? It can be defined as tranquility, harmony or security. There are different kinds of peace…. inner peace, peace with God and peace with man. But seldom have we found it in our nation, our communities or our families. …or especially even in ourselves.
We, as individuals, have little influence in world affairs. Primarily the domain we can control is just ourselves. When we can achieve peace within ourselves, we will have more influence on the peace of others.
So, what is peace? It is the state in which fighting ceases and justice prevails. It’s the end of conflict. It’s liberation from violence and hostilities. It’s reconciliation and compromise. It is opening ourselves to God’s healing spirit.
And why should we pursue peace? Because that’s what God wants of us. Jesus taught it and he lived it. The Bible proclaimed it. In Psalm 34: 14 we find, “Depart from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.” Romans 14: 19 says “Let is pursue the things that make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” God has given each of us the gift of today and God wants us to use the days we have seeking redeeming peace. Being at odds with another is a waste of our precious time.
Often the offenses we choose to embrace make no sense at all.
I had an uncle who chose to turn his back on his only son. The son was critically injured in an automobile accident. My uncle spent days by the side of his son in the hospital. Finally as the son was beginning to recover, he confessed to his father that he was gay. My uncle never spoke to his son for the rest of his life. Later, the same uncle moved to California and lived with my Aunt Mildred until he could find work. He became alienated from her because she refused to call him by his middle name, “Leon” and instead insisted on calling him by his first name “Floyd”. He was so angry that he never spoke to her again. Trivia! Yet most of the offences we embrace and use to become alienated from others are trivia.
But when we choose to be at peace with others, we not only please God, we position ourselves to receive the blessings of God in our lives….the consequences of peace. We can fritter away the few years we have on this earth quarreling and fighting with others but one day we will hopefully realize how little time we have left in this futile pursuit. We need to focus on the fact that many battles in life are not worth fighting. We can choose not to fight those battles. And instead we can actively pursue the path of peace.
Let’s face it….we have no control over what other people do. We only have control over what we do. We can decide to let go of offenses and cultivate peace. And we can choose to associate with those who also pursue peace. Jesus had few friends but he cherished the friendships he had. Remember, Jesus taught “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Another scripture in Romans 12: 18 advised “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men”. We would have more peace if we would not busy ourselves with the sayings and doings of others.
Our own attitude can make or break the peace of God within us. The more we hold on to anxiety and worry, the more we sabotage the empowering peace of God at work in our lives.
In the world there will be wars and rumors of wars. In human relations there will be offences and grievances. But God’s promise to his people is that his peace reigns. His presence remains.
Again there is much animosity, competition and degradation among people in the world today. Injustice is rampant as millions are marginalized and left without enough of the world’s plentiful resources to enjoy even a basic standard of living. If we truly believe God sent Jesus to save the world, we must feel called to proclaim him and his peace through our actions on behalf of those who are without even the essentials of life. And we need to advocate for peace in all our own relationships.
If we have peace with God and we share his peace with others, scripture says we have become a proclaimer of peace and a minister of reconciliation. As God’s advocates, that’s what God expects of us.