Summary: As Americans, we should be thankful for our citizenship in this great nation under God. But, Christians have dual citizenship and have been incorporated into "one new humanity" in the church of Jesus Christ.
"One Nation Under God…" That phrase, One Nation Under God, which features so prominently in our Pledge of Allegiance has been the subject of much discussion and has become the scrutiny of many people over the last year.
It all started last year when a self-avowed atheist by the name of Michael Newdow brought a suit against two school districts in California challenging the constitutionality of the that phrase. On June 26, 2002, the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco ruled in Newdow’s favor. Shortly after the ruling, Newdow, in his own feisty way, described his position this way. He said:
"I brought this case because I am an atheist and this offends me, and I have the right to bring up my daughter without God being imposed into her life by her schoolteachers…. I believe in the Constitution. The Constitution says that government isn’t supposed to be infusing religion into our society… I choose to worship not believing in God and government should not thrust a religious idea down my throat. (Source: Litigant Explains Why He Brought Pledge Suit." (Transcript of CNN’s Arthel Neville phone interview during "Talkback Live." June 26, 2003. http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/06/26/Newdow.cnna/. Accessed on 5/25/03)
I have a sense that most—if not all— of you here today might have a problem with Newdow’s thinking. You might question whether Newdow is imposing his atheistic beliefs on a nation that by and large believes in God.
In fact, this Memorial Day, many Americans see it as a day to thank God for the great sacrifice of so many brave men and women who gave their lives to protect our citizenship in this one nation under God.
Yes, as Americans, we have a lot to be thankful for! But, as Christians. We have dual citizenships!
Christians are citizens of even a greater nation! In our text, we are reminded by Paul that we have been called to be “fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (Eph 2:19-20)
You see, as great as our citizenship in this one nation under God is, we Christians have an even greater privilege to be citizens of God’s kingdom and family!
So, today I want to consider that phrase "One Nation Under God" in light of Paul’s teaching about the church in Ephesians 2:11-22.
Before we can understand the great promise we have as citizens of God’s kingdom, we need to come to grips with our real problem.
I. Our Real Problem (2:1-3, 11-12)
In one word…ALIENATION
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “alienate” as:
to make unfriendly, hostile, or indifferent where attachment formerly existed or to cause to be withdrawn or diverted
On a spiritual level, Paul defines our alienation on two levels: vertical and horizontal.
+VERTICAL:Alienated from GOD (2:1-3, 12b)
-2:12b: … at that time you were separate from Christ…without hope and without God in the world.
-2:1-3: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
+HORIZONTAL: Alienated from ONE ANOTHER (2:11-12a)
- 2:11-12: Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- 12 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.
Our vertical separation from God affects our relationships with one another.
In Paul’s day: Jews vs. Gentile
In our day, what is it?
·Blacks vs. Whites
·Haves vs. the Have-nots?
·Ridge-runners vs. Flatlanders? (in our county)
II. Bringing Together the Races (2:11-18)
God’s intention has always been to bring peoples together in a bond based upon truth and love.
A. Some people look at the legacy of the US as The Great Melting Pot as fulfilling God’s purpose for people
1. One children’s song captures the essence of America this way :
"My grandmother came from Russia
A satchel on her knee,
My grandfather had his father’s cap
He brought from Italy.
They’d heard about a country
Where life might let them win,
They paid the fare to America
And there they melted in.
Lovely Lady Liberty
With her book of recipes
And the finest one she’s got
Is the great American melting pot