Paul, while writing to the church in Ephesus, wanted to encourage them and to remind them that though they were gentiles (not Jewish), God had invited them to his household where they would be united with Jews by the blood of Jesus. By this invitation to others to join the household:
1. Walls were broken down: When Jesus came, he broke all the barriers that separated his creation. We were all created in the image of God. There is one God and one heaven. It is our humanness that divides, not God. I think of the cultural walls that still exist in the world today. I think of a cast-system (Varna Vayavastha) in places like India. This cast puts the Dalit outside the body of the system that defines the cast system. That means they think of them as less than human. They have four levels (Brahmins – Priests on top).
2. All had access to the father: All of God’s children have access to their God. We all have access to the saving love of Jesus Christ. The day that Jesus died, the curtain in the temple was split so that all could be included. In the bible, we encounter many people that lived with a dividing wall and God was able to bring them in. We have Rahab living on the walls of Jericho; the Samaritan woman who lived in isolation because of her moral preferences. We have the story of the lepers who were excluded from the community because of their sickness. These are just a few; the list can go on but Paul is telling the gentiles that even though they lived on the edge, Jesus came so that they could be brought in.
Jesus has reminded us that we need to be one as his is one with the father. As believers we are one in Christ so there are no Jews or Gentiles in God’s Kingdom; we are all his children. The oneness here is important in terms of being a means of effective witness of the works of God.
It is important that we learn that at the time when Paul lived there, there were all kinds of division that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles (non-Jews). Today we live in a world where the divide is subtler and sometimes hard to detect but it is there. People today will be divided on economical lines, age, color, education, political parties, northerners and southerners, immigrants and citizens, ideologies and even the churches we attend. Others will see divisions in the school we attend or the part of town that we live in. We might easily deny all these divides but that does not mean that they don’t exist.
Pau, today, is reminding us of the importance of unity. We are reminded that our unity is based on one common denominator who is Jesus Christ. We are united through the cross of Jesus. For this unity to exist we have to learn to live on what I call the E.D.G.E. They can tell their part of the experience and we have heard them sing their experiences:
- Experience: We need to ask what comes with experience. The first thing that brings experience is living that life. You may read books about the Army, Navy, plumbing, or any other occupation but that does not make you one. As you enroll in the Army, for example, you then experience all the stages, starting with the training, all the way to serving in different posts. You gain a unique experience that only you can know and those who have shared the same will know. In the same manner, we can’t experience God unless we are willing to live truly in the life he has given us. We will all know when his is in us. If someone came to our house we would surely know. We can read all we want about God and his working among the people but we may not fully experience it until we allow him in. He stands at the door and knocks and waits for us to let him in (Revelation 3:20). He does not force himself inside us. To experience God we have to allow ourselves to live a life that he has invited us to. A life of loving one another. When we love, we are able to experience God at work through that love. A life of peace. This is where we look for nothing but to live in harmony with one another. This does not mean people agree on everything but even in the midst of disagreement there is peace. We can disagree lovingly. This happens all the time in our homes. We don’t agree on everything as family but we try to stay united and caring for one another.
- Discover: As we experience god we discover new things that we never knew. It is like entering a big house with many rooms and you keep opening each door at a time and you find new discoveries. Taking the analogy of joining the Army, once more, when you join the Army you discover many things. You discover the challenges that you face, the brotherhood and sisterhood that is developed. The eyes are opened to a new world. The amazing things that take place. You discover the joys and challenges that come with being an Army person. In the same way, when we live on the edge, we discover the faithfulness of God working. From the time of creation God has been faithful to his end of the promises to humanity. Often it is us who decide o take the wrong path, like the prodigal son. But God has stayed faithful, loving us through Jesus Christ all the way – even to the cross. As we invite God into our lives we keep discovering many doors that he opens for us to experience him. We discover quickly that God’s promises are true and Amen. We discover that he will keep his word. There is still one promise that we are all waiting for and that is that one day we will be able to see God face to face, seated on his throne. I can’t wait for that promise, but as of now I will keep on discovering his love and faithfulness in my life. The other day, as I was reading through the Bible, I came across something that I had never known. That was that David had to pay a special price to be given Michal, the daughter of Saul, as his wife (100 Philistine men’s foreskins – 1 Samuel 18:24-25). David initially wanted to marry Michal’s older sister, Merab (1 Samuel 18:17-200) but Saul would not give her to him. Instead he gave her to Adriel of Meholah.
- God: Living on the edge we discover God in the society, even among the segregated and oppressed. Living on the edge helps us know God in a new way. To the gentile Jesus allowed them to discover God in a new way. Before Jesus brought the invitation to all people, the gentiles were considered by the Jews as: a) The uncircumcised: we have to remember that circumcision was a sign of a sealed covenant between God and Abraham. Abraham had to be circumcised the same day with the father. This became an important rite among the Israelites because God required it of every Israelite male. Any other group of people that were not circumcised were not in the covenant. In the early part of the new Testament some Jews said if one was to join Judaism they had to be circumcised; b) No hope for Messiah: Since the gentiles were not the chosen race it meant that they had no hope of redemption. But with Jesus’ coming, everything changed; c) Were Aliens: as an alien, it meant that they never belonged to this chosen people. They were not part of God’s kingdom, but Jesus came so that all who believed in him qualified to be called God’s children and the Kingdom of God belongs to them; d) They were strangers: they were seen as strangers because they were not part of the covenant on which the promise was based. Israel was the people of the covenant through Abraham. But Jesus came to bring the new covenant which invites us all to the Kingdom. Think of the community of Dalit in India, for example, where the cast system does not even think they belong anywhere on this planet. In a cast system where one is defined using the body, where one caste could be the head while the other is the feet. The Dalit don’t even exist in the body analogy, they are outside. But they are experiencing God through you and the support you give in advance specials.
- Everywhere: We are united wherever we find ourselves. We cant limit God in terms of where he can be for God is an omnipresent God. He lives among the poor, the rich, the short and the tall, black and white, children and adults in the developed and the developing world. Though we experience God in a personal way, we can’t cage him. Other people experience him too. God is enough for everything that he created. Having God in your life does not prevent the same god to be in someone else’s life. Therefore living on the edge you learn that God is not tied to a place or even a continent or country, but rather God is everywhere.