The biggest breaking down of a barrier in recent memory has to be that of the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989, and the reunification of a country and a people torn apart. Sadly since then walls have continued to be built in other places (perhaps most notoriously and sadly the West Bank Wall in Israel). But people are not meant to live with barriers – however good we have got at constructing them, physical or in our mind-set.
It seems to be human nature to try to divide people. Those who are, and those who aren’t, whatever distinction we like to put in.
The writer to the Ephesians is concerned for unity
Then when the time is right, God will do all that he has planned, and Christ will bring together everything in heaven and on earth. (1:10)
All are forgiven and set free by Christ, so there is nothing else really to argue about.
United by Christ
11 Don’t forget that you are Gentiles. In fact, you used to be called “uncircumcised” by those who take pride in being circumcised. 12 At that time you did not know about Christ. You were foreigners to the people of Israel, and you had no part in the promises that God had made to them. You were living in this world without hope and without God, 13 and you were far from God. But Christ offered his life’s blood as a sacrifice and brought you near God.
14 Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body 15 to destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands. He even brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person, when he united us in peace. 16 On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body. 17 Christ came and preached peace to you Gentiles, who were far from God, and peace to us Jews, who were near God. 18 And because of Christ, all of us can come to the Father by the same Spirit.
19 You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. 20 You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. 21 Christ is the one who holds the building together and makes it grow into a holy temple for the Lord. 22 And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place for God’s own Spirit to live.
There is a world of difference between unity and uniformity. The former does not demand the latter. But it does require an awareness of what we hold in common.
John Wesley summed those up in what we call the Four Alls:
- All need to be saved – the doctrine of original sin
- All can be saved – Universal Salvation
- All can know they are saved – Assurance
- All can be saved completely – Christian perfection
Beyond that there is nothing much to separate us. We all need God, and can all know God. God accepts us all. Anything else is preference and difference of labels.
The Ephesians are reminded,
Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us.
We are called as God’s people to be barrier breakers not builders. To free people, not tie them down with labels or marginalisation. Jesus has done away with hatred, it is not up to us to make some more! No one is strange, no one is foreign, we are all citizens of God’s kingdom – and equal ones at that.
So that is how we need to live. Not throwing labels around, not trying to squeeze people into boxes of our making, not emphasising differences and making people feel the “odd one out”, but recognising what we all share in God.
Thank you Lord
that you know me and love me,
that you accept me and save me
– but not only me,
but every other person in the world.
Help me to remember that,
to see it in them,
and live it in my life.
May I not be guilty of building barriers,
or marginalising others;
but may I live to bring freedom
and the breaking down of barriers
to you and to life in all its fullness