Summary: When we have hostility we need to remember that we all hang on to the same cross for our salvation. Nothing else is more important than that.
Anne and I love where we live. We live in an area of town called Clintonville with lots of old homes and families and stuff like that. The thing is, we live just south of a major dividing line in the community. That dividing line in North Broadway, and the division plays out in the form of home prices. For those living North of North Broadway, their homes tend to be a little nicer and significantly more expensive. So you can tell when some people talk, where they come from. Those of us in the south call Clintonville just that, Clintonville. Those living North of North Broadway often refer to Northern Clintonville and Southern Clintonville.
It’s more of a joke than anything else, even to the people who live north of us, but I can see why some people want to make a distinction. If I paid more for my house, I might want to make the division known too! Anne and I always laugh because sometimes we go for a run and we go north of our house and we whisper to one another, “I wonder if anyone can tell we’re actually from SOUTHERN Clintonville, play it cool.”
But some divisions aren’t a joke at all. Human beings have some kind of internal drive to put people, and places, and things into neat and easily identifiable categories. Sometimes these divisions lead to all kinds of evils: Bloodshed, Genocide, Persecution. Sometimes these divisions even lead to hostilities in places where there really shouldn’t be. Churches even deal with divisions and hostilities sometimes.
This was defiantly a struggle for the church in Ephesus. This church situated in a city that was a major trade center of Asia Minor, and as such, was a very diverse place. So the church was made up of all kinds of different people who had come out of all kinds of different backgrounds. And as always happens as humans, we tend to bring our own ways of thinking, our own traditions and expectations, our own ideas about how things “SHOULD BE” into our relationships.
When Anne and I first got married, I realized the hard way that we have very different ideas about what should be done for birthdays. In my house, as we got older, birthdays weren’t really a bid deal. We might go out for dinner, or my parents might let me have a couple of buddies over and get a pizza or something, but there really wasn’t much of a celebration after we got a little older. In fact, there have been many occasions when I have forgotten it was my birthday.
Anne’s family, on the other hand, makes a big deal of birthdays, and Anne does as well. I have learned that I need to adjust my way of thinking. Because when I took Anne out to a hot dog restaurant for our first birthday together, she was a good sport, but I could tell I missed the mark. (In my defense, it was a nice hot dog restaurant). I try harder now, and in fact, I think I do pretty well, but it took me realizing that arguing for my way of thinking isn’t as important as showing love to my wife, and that being reconciled to one another is the main goal and aim, not how I think things “SHOULD BE.”
I mention this because as we look at the church in Ephesus, there were two very different groups of people, from very different backgrounds who were now trying to make life work as a church. It wasn’t easy. Paul opens up this passage describing this division: 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—
There were Jewish Christians in the congregation, who refered to themselves as “the circumcision.” These were people who grew up intimately connected with the Jewish traditions and Laws. They followed the Jewish rules and laws and had a real historic understanding of the faith. The other group was “the uncircumsicion.” This group of people were the non-Jews, Gentiles from all over the place. They came from all kinds of different backgrounds, Roman and Greek pagan religions, and had no real connection to the traditions of the Jews. So you have two groups of people that can very easily make each other feel very uncomfortable. And it seems that they were doing just that.
The Jewish Christians were upset because the Gentiles weren’t following all of the Jewish traditions that they grew up with and thought of as essential to the faith. The Gentiles were getting offended because they were getting looked down upon because they weren’t circumcised or because they didn’t understand all of the traditions. So there was a dividing wall of hostility that was being build in the middle of this church. Not a wall of rock, or brick, but made out of something much harder and resilient: Human emotions, and stubbornness, mortared with Self-Righteousness.