Summary: 2nd in series on Jesus priorities. This describes what the church should be with alliteration.
Ephesians 2:14–19 – We Are Family
You’ve heard me quote many times a book that has changed my life, which is What’s So Amazing About Grace? In it the author, Philip Yancey quotes Mark Twain. Apparently Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic; soon there was not a living thing left.
In this area it might be Baptist, Pentecostal and Catholic. But you know, it’s hard enough sometimes for a Wesleyan, a Wesleyan and a Wesleyan to get along.
Pastor Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago says these words with passion: “The local church is the hope of the world.” And you know, if you think of it, the church really is God’s concept of community. It’s God’s idea. The church is to be a place where people can be real. Where relationships are formed and trusted. A place of refuge and accountability. When we invite someone to church, we really are inviting them to be a part of the community that God designed for each of us to enjoy. There is something attractive about safe, honest, and welcoming places. And the church can be that place!
One of the greatest desires of every human heart is to belong. From the nursery to the nursing home, we want to connect with others. Unfortunately, many people search aimlessly in the wrong places, looking for this security and connectedness. “Maybe if I make more money . . . Maybe if I was in a different relationship . . . Maybe if I changed jobs.” For thousands of years, humanity has been trying desperately to find safe, secure relationships.
Jesus was a relationship builder. He knew the importance of meaningful relationships and He gave the early church a model for true community: “Love your neighbor . . . love your enemies . . . give to the needy . . . forgive one another . . . do not judge . . .” (Matthew 6, 7). Jesus demonstrated a “one another” type of love that is so different from our “me first” society. Take a walk through the Gospels, and time after time you will see Christ demonstrating biblical community to the sick, the poor, the rich, the outcast, the religious, and the pagan. It was attractive then and it is attractive now to a generation who is searching for something of substance.
Quoting Bill Hybels again, “There is nothing like the local church when the local church is working right.” Hopefully, most of us know of people who were attracted to the church and its message because they saw the church doing what it is supposed to do. Sometimes the greatest evangelism tool we can use is to simply be an open, honest group of believers demonstrating the love of Christ. People not only enjoy this, they need it.
In his book on community, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them, John Ortberg wrote, “Community—living in vital connectedness with others—is essential to human life. Community is the place God made us for. Community is the place where God meets us.” If community is so important and if it is a priority of Christ for everyone, then how do we invite others to experience it?
Let’s look at our text—Ephesians 2:14–18. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus was to remind them that the priorities of Jesus Christ need to be our priorities. In the verses we’re looking at today we can see at least three illustrations of what Christ expects the church to be.
Priority 1: Peace (Ephesians 2:14, 17). If we want our hearts and our churches to align with the priorities of Christ, then we must pray: 1) That our churches would be peaceful places. Places of mutual respect, of one mind, and of one mission 2) That the peace of God would be evident in our lives. If He really is the “God of all peace,” then our lives need to reflect it. 3) That the message of peace would be clear to those who are searching. All of our programs, ministries, and evangelism efforts can introduce seekers to a peace like no other.
Anti-peace messages are coming at us from all angles at all times. There is often strife in the home and at work. Most media or news that we consume is filled with confusion and chaos. A by-product of all this unrest is that people are searching for truly safe places of community. People long for places where they can be real, take off their masks, and experience peace that is lasting.