For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Ephesians 2: 14-16

Jesus did all of this a very long time ago. Yet, we are still not living in the reality of what is described here. For there is certainly more than just a little hostility out there in the world, and I cannot see an end to it soon. We just find new reasons to dislike others, to fear them and to seek to keep ourselves separate and apart from many of the people in our world. We can even contemplate and fabricate compelling arguments for the need for these barriers and the laws or rules that are enacted in order to enforce them. In this environment, it is easy to justify the expenditure of extraordinary sums of money on this process of separation, and we name all of it as necessary, acts carried out for the sake of national pride, and in the name of religious purity.

So, you might come back at me with a statement about the fact that Paul, in this letter, was not talking about the same things that I am in the words above, and I will agree with you, to a point. However, I think that Paul’s deeper concept here is one of re-creation or of restoration of that which God designed and devised to be the state of being in our world. When humanity was formed up and established on this earth by the hand of God and with His breath breathed into our lungs, we were not intended to be separated by race, nationality, social or economic status, or by the way that we worship God. These divisions and separations have all come about in the aftermath of our sinful rebellion against our Creator. So, Paul may have been talking specifically about the very broad divisions of Jews and Gentiles, but when that discussion is extended out to its fullest reach, I contend that it is about every form of separation and division that might exist in our world.

Jesus came to break down all of those walls. He entered into His destiny in order to give us the way and the means by which God’s heart for restoration of His creation could begin to be carried out in our world. Now it is our responsibility and duty to follow Christ into that same work of restoration. Where there are divisions, we need to seek reconciliation. As there are barriers to fellowship, Christ’s people must reach out to share a table of grace, understanding, and peace. When people proclaim nationality or other forms of human-devised superiority, Christians and Christ’s church need to raise up a chorus of praise to our only true and sovereign King Jesus as we also stand up and risk defiance of power that is established in this world so that the valid power of the cross is what the world sees standing tall above our heads. There is one road that leads to peace in our world, one path to reconciliation of humanity to God, and a singular way into an eternal relationship with God, and this is the one that takes us to the cross and that leads into the arms of Jesus the Christ.    

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

1 Peter 2: 9

 

Taking pride in the nation of our origin or in the one where we live is something that most people are taught from an early age. We become citizens, and that single word conveys a very wide range of benefits, responsibilities, and affiliations. Sometimes this idea of nation takes on the sort of zeal and boosterism that would normally be reserved for sports teams. We cheer it on, its faults and shortcomings are impossible to see, we support it regardless of its actions, and we are ready to sacrifice all for its causes. Yet, when the nation is being described as holy, it seems that Peter cannot be describing anything that is even remotely similar to the sorts of geopolitical entities that we call nation in our world today.

 

There are no holy nations; not one. Each and every one of them exists to serve its own purposes and to promote its own causes. All of the nations, countries, and states that exist on earth owe and pay their highest allegiance to their foundational documents and to the ruling officials that those documents set over their governance. In no case are God and His Word placed in that position of true primary and ultimate authority. So, Peter must have something in mind other than the nations of his time or the ones that have followed in history when he refers to the men and women who follow Christ as a great nation. I believe that he is saying that God has called all people who know Him to a form of allegiance that is higher and greater than our earthly citizenship or physical residency. In fact, God has called us to live in the light of His truth, love, and mercy so that the light of God’s glory will illuminate the lands where we reside.

 

Our primary loyalty must be to God and to His Christ. The document that frames our rule of life needs to be God’s Word. When that holy document sets out a course of travel through life and the Holy Spirit directs us to follow, we have no righteous choice but to do so. When that course is contrary to the dictates and the mandates of the rulers of our land or to the laws that they enact; we are compelled to speak out, to stand up and be known, and to work to change the unrighteous path that our nation has elected to follow. If change does not follow, we must seek to change the people who are in power and we must work diligently to remove or to modify the unrighteous laws. There is great strength to be found in the multitude of those who God knows as His chosen people. However, we need to recognize our common bond that is found in our blood of Christ kinship. As we stop defending national borders and stand firm in our true nationhood under God, the light of His righteousness will illuminate darkened corners of our world.

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Acts 2: 21

 

Peter is speaking about the end of time when God’s will for the redemption of His creation shall be completed. This is something that is to take place over a period of time that is outside of human understanding. God doesn’t reveal the details of His timeline or of His methodology to us. What the Lord does say is that He wants us to trust His word and believe in His promise that this work of redemption will be completed. It is in this faith and by this trust that each of us who follow Christ are called upon by God to live in these days of uncertainty and distress.

 

It seems to me that these troubled times are situated in a place that is well along God’s timeline for the last days. The violence, angry rhetoric, and injustice of our days are an indicator of the growing divide between God’s will and that of the powers of this world. What is happening around us causes a very significant amount of pressure to be placed upon people of faith in several ways. There is much to fear in our world; so, fearfulness and caution are rational reactions to it all. Many of the actions of our governments are unjust and unrighteous; so, radical change is something that we seek. Also, in a highly relativistic and equivocal world we desire a solid place to set our feet; so, we turn to our national identity for that bedrock of truth.

 

Yet, none of these responses is the one that God calls us to. His Word and the revelation of His Spirit point us toward Christ alone as the answer to the stormy environment of these last days. Then, in and with Christ we can engage with the political and the cultural concerns that trouble our hearts and confuse our minds. God’s desire for His creation is its redemption from the death grip of sin, and followers of Christ are to be workers in the achievement of that plan. At the end of it all Christ will cleanse and then restore all of creation to the glory of God’s original work. Until then, our salvation is found singularly in Christ, and our mission is to proclaim that reality to all who will listen.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

! Peter 2: 9

 

This is July 4th, and in the United Stats we are celebrating the high holy day of our nation. Now listen carefully to me here, I say this with all due respect and sincerity. I am loyal and patriotic and delight in the many great things that this country has accomplished and that it does stand for. Additionally, Peter left us with little doubt about the fact that God directs us to be loyal citizens, to place ourselves under the rule and the authority of our civil governments and their leaders. Yet, I fear that too many people, in this country and in others, get our orientation, thus our priority, all wrong.

 

We start believing that God ordained our specific nation and its system of governance as His answer to the needs of humanity for justice, order, and right living. We grant our highest form of allegiance to that national entity while believing that the answers to all that is amiss in our world are to be found in strict adherence to a constitution and in the power and rule of might of our government, often as prosecuted by the strength of our military. Let’s face it, national identity is easy to grasp, is usually safe to proclaim in our neighborhood, and grants to us a ready means of proclaiming superiority among the peoples of the world.

 

This form of loyalty is legitimate on the one hand, but it is false at a much deeper level. It is legitimate in that God has established our various systems of rule as a means of both maintaining order in a broken and dying world and, through their inherent futility and oppression, of pointing us to Christ as the only legitimate and effectual King. Yet it is dangerously false in that it often leads us into placing our trust and faith in laws and in leaders that are earthly and temporary. Unfortunately this false trust inevitably leads to compromise and to a loss of true righteousness, justice, and love for others. God claims us as His own people, our nationality is found in Christ, and it is founded on the truth of God’s Word. Our mission is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Its purpose is to bring about the peace that is found only through reconciliation with God.