We are many nations and ethnicities called together at this time and place here at IGSL. We are called to love one another, but we can naturally be disrespectful to one another. Instead of honoring one another as made in the image of God, we put a label on a someone and use that as an excuse to treat them disrespectfully. And we have so many stories here. We have histories between nations and ethnicities. We have countries that have been at war. Big and small countries, east and west. There’s A, B, C, and D class; caste system; male and female; employer and employee. There are so many instances when instead of honoring each other, we use labels to treat others with disrespect.
Paul, who was a first century Christian, a Roman citizen, and Jewish, knew this tension very well. And it’s interesting how he approached this problem of Jews and Gentiles being united in one church. He doesn’t just put a few rules out there to be nice. He brings the gospel to bear on this issue of differences being united in Christ.
In Ephesians 2:13-22, what does the gospel have to say about our great diversity being united together in the church, here in IGSL, in showing RESPECT?
The root of this whole thing flows out of “but in Christ Jesus…” Covenantally, we are in Christ. We also have a living, vital union with Jesus: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” In Christ, all those who were far off have been brought near. He has united us. He is our peace. The blood of Christ inaugurated a new covenant, so that both Jews and Gentiles now had access to God through Christ. He “reconciled them both in one body to God through the cross.”
In Christ, you are made alive but you are also united together. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t say, “I want Christ but I don’t want His church.” Because when you are united with Christ, you are also united in a body. He is the Head; we have a union together, and He is our peace. The vertical and horizontal always go together.
We in Christ not only have new life and are raised to new life. We are united to one another in one body so that disrespect towards one another on the basis of class, race, sex, or employment status is an affront to God’s gospel plan. This is the gospel story that we all were born in the image of God as sons and daughters of Adam. None of us are superior to others. We all go back to the same source. One race, the human race in Adam. God intended for whole world to be full, for all these cultures to develop and unite in worship. But instead in the fall, these differences have led to strife, enmity, and war, and we see it all over interpersonally—divorce, nationally—wars.
But Jesus Christ died for the world. And as He rose again to the right hand of the Father, He pours out the Spirit and the nations hear the gospel and confess one Lord, one faith, one baptism. And we are journeying together to the new heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem, where in Revelation 7, John’s eyes are open and he sees every nation, every tribe, every tongue worshiping “worthy is the Lamb who was slain.” That’s where this gospel story is going. That is a holy calling.
How do we respond to the gospel story? We are called to steward and to preserve the unity that God has already made. “Walk in a manner worthy of your calling.” Live the Christian life by daily counting yourself dead to this world, daily turning and presenting yourself to your new Master, inviting the Spirit of God to work in and through you to make you like Jesus. And He is the one who will produce the fruit of the Spirit, as we participate with Him, of humility, patience, kindness, and bearing with one another because there is one Lord, one God, one faith, and one baptism. We are united as a body.
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