Summary: The wall of the Law that kept Jews and Gentiles separate was removed to bring about reconciliation. God did this so that they were no longer be strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens.
WE ARE RESIDENT ALIENS
Text: Ephesians 2:11 – 22
According to the online Encyclopedia known as Wikipedia, “The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965 …. Some examples of Jim Crow laws are the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and blacks”. Though the Civil War was over in 1865 the battle for Civil Rights would continue for the next one hundred years. Plessy v. Ferguson was an 1896 court case that sought segregation in terms of separate but equal. “Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, 396 U.S. 1218 (1969) – changed Brown's requirement of desegregation "with all deliberate speed" to one of "desegregation now." As we know from history the wall for desegregation came down.
In the New Testament, Paul talks about a similar barrier that existed between the Jews and the Gentiles. Both the Jews and the Gentiles had a prior history of avoiding each other. The wall of the Law that kept Jews and Gentiles separate was removed to bring about reconciliation. God did this so that they were no longer be strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens. It is through Jesus that both have access to the Father by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). They went from living apart to being united as fellow citizens of the kingdom of God.
God called Father Abraham to be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:4). 1) “After the days of Noah, God’s covenants were all made with Israel and His promises were all made to Israel.” (H. A. Ironside. In The Heavenlies: Ephesians. (Eighth Printing). New York: Loizeaux Brothers Inc., 1955, p. 120). 2) Then came the Mosaic covenant. 3) Two Gentiles from the Old Testament (Ruth and Naaman) who were saved by becoming converts. (Montgomery, p. 78). Becoming a convert meant that they had to become circumcised and take on living a life in keeping with the law.
Before our ancestors were reconciled, they lived apart from the Jews. 1) They co-existed as enemies of different cultures and nations. 2) The dividing line at the time Paul was referring to was between Jew and Gentile. One was your friend and the other a foe. 3) There was a barrier that one dared not to cross. As long as Jews and Gentiles kept separate from one another, they were fine. 4) If one were to leave his or her side of the dividing cultural barrier, then the breach was thought to have been defiling to the ones who crossed the barriers. You can see this barrier in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30 -37) and the story of the woman at the well (in John 4).
Do good fences make good neighbors as Robert Frost once said? 1) I will never forget watching the evening news one night in 1989 as I saw history-making footage of the Cold War changing as the Berlin Wall began to be dismantled. 2) Someone (James Montgomery Boice) said it best when he said, “We did not invent alienation … it has been present since Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in defiance of God’s command …”. (James Montgomery Boice. Ephesians. (Second Printing). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2007, p. 83). 3) Robert Frost also once said “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”. 4) The Gospel removes the barriers that divide us! Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the price for our sins as well as to remove the barriers that hinder reconciliation.
Is it possible for people to co-exist and be at odds with our creator? 1) Regardless of where a person stood on the Jewish or the Gentile side of the fence they are all sinners. 2) Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 that we have all sinned and have therefore fallen short of the glory of God. 3) Sin is a barrier that stands between us and God. 4) Jesus died on the cross to remove that barrier. 5) In fact, Jesus gave us His righteousness in exchange for our sins (II Corinthians 5:21) as He paid the price for those sins (I Corinthians 7:23). Romans 5:8 puts it this way: “But God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (NIV).
UNITED AS CITIZENS
Does unity guarantee peace?. 1) Someone (Pheme Perkins) once said, “The peace of empires is not true peace”. (Leander E. Keck. ed. The New Interpreter’s Bible. Pheme Perkins. ‘The Letter To The Ephesians: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections”. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2000, p. 405). 2) Jesus tells us that He gives us the kind of peace that the world cannot give (John 14:27). 3) Consider the peace that was offered prior to World War II. “ There were some who thought that war could be averted if the political leaders of the day could sit down and talk to one another like gentlemen.” Neville Chamberlain was naïve enough to believe that Hitler was a reasonable person. He had to resign when Hitler blitzed Danzig and Poland. As a result, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England as war became unavoidable. (James Montgomery Boice, pp. 84 - 85). Even forced unity will not bring peace.