Summary: When we look at others as God does, we won't be so quick to throw up barriers.
I want to speak to you about walls this morning. Can you think of any famous walls? How about the wall that is so large it can be seen from space? That’s the Great Wall of China. It’s actually a series of walls built, rebuilt, and maintained between 685 BC and 1644 AD. With all of its branches, the Great Wall stretches for 8,850 kilometers, twice the distance between Vancouver and Ottawa!
Another famous, but much shorter wall is the Berlin Wall. It started out as a barbwire fence in 1961, but eventually morphed into a concrete wall patrolled by soldiers. Its purpose was to stop East Berliners from escaping to the West. About 100 people died trying to get past that wall in its 28 years of existence.
There’s another infamous wall that you may never have heard of. It was called the Soreg. This wall surrounded the temple of Jesus’ day and its purpose was to keep out anyone who was not Jewish. Imagine building a wall around our church and saying that only Canadians, or only people from St. Albert, or only those with an annual income over $50,000 may enter. I would hope you would run me out of this church if I ever suggested building such a wall! And yet could it be that we put up invisible walls like that all the time? Could our prejudices hinder us from interacting with others in a loving, Christ-like manner? Have walls of bitterness, for example, cut off family ties, and hurt relationships within this congregation? It’s not just the Great Wall of China that can be seen from the heavens, so can these walls we’ve put up. Today the Holy Spirit wants to help us tear down those walls. He’ll do that by giving us a God’s-eye view of others as we continue our study of the New Testament book of Ephesians.
There seemed to have been an invisible wall between the Jewish and non-Jewish, or Gentile believers in Ephesus. This was not so surprising because for centuries the Jewish people had been conditioned to think that as God’s chosen people, they were better than everyone else. The Jews were indeed God’s chosen people, but they had not been chosen because they were better than everyone else. Last week we heard Paul declare that at one time everyone, including the Jews, was dead in sin and objects of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3). But God did choose to reveal his grace early and often to the Jewish people. And through them that message was to go out to the world. If a mother asks one of her children to announce to the other kids that it’s time to eat, that child better not just sit down at the table, fork and knife in hand while his siblings are clueless of the dinner invitation.
But sadly, over the years, the Jews had begun to act like such a self-centred child. They didn’t think the Gentiles were worth inviting to the banquet of God’s salvation. That’s because they misunderstood the purpose of the various laws that God had given to his Old Testament people, like how they were not supposed to intermarry with people of other nations. God forbad that intermarriage because he knew how quickly the Israelites would adopt the pagan religions of their brides and grooms! Paul spoke about those pagan religions when he said to the Gentiles, “…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).