For he himself is our peace, he has made us both one and has broken down in the flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Ephesians 2: 14

 

It seems that I have consulted with myself and granted permission to me to stretch the application of this verse some in order to make a point. Additionally, I am not sorry for my actions. This verse is part of a much longer sentence that runs across several of our verse divisions, and the point involved is a discussion about the way that Christ’s sacrifice has eliminated the Jew and Gentile divisions and separations that existed in his day and that were enforced in the Law. This point had a much broader application than just the way that people of different religious beliefs would live, for it also engaged with issues of race, nationality, gender, and societal status. I believe that God’s desired outcome in giving us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, is far more inclusive regarding the issues that divide people than just religion or any of the other concerns and causes that might have been prevalent in the time when Paul wrote his letter to the church.

 

We live in a world today that is far more divided than it has been at any other time in history. We also operate in a manner that is guaranteed to continue existing divisions and to promote even greater ones as we go along our way. The communication tools that we have at our disposal are powerful entrenching tools when it comes to constructing these canyon-like separations, and we have fabricated rules for using these means of communication that allow for words, comments, and commentary that would have been largely unacceptable in the past to be viewed as normative today. It seems that no one holds anyone else to a standard of behavior when it comes to what is said and that none of us are willing to impose restraint upon ourselves, either. We have entered into a time when our political discourse is neither civil nor is its objective really to bring us to a place where reasoned thinking leads to mutually satisfactory processes and decisions.

 

So, here is a radical proposal. It would seem that Paul stated a concept for healthy human interaction that was one that God threw out to us a very long time ago. That is, in Christ we have our answer to all that separates and divides us. Through His blood we are all brought together before the Great High King, and it is His law of love, grace, justice, and redemption that becomes our new, final, and permanent rule of law that considers all and that prevails in everything. In this kingdom of God’s, if it does not speak Christ, I do not say it, and if my words do not seek to create understanding and unity, I rethink and restate them until they accomplish this goal as a higher purpose than just driving home my point. When I am gathered around Christ’s eucharistic table in company with those who may see an issue differently than I do, our goal is no longer winning the debate; instead, it becomes sharing in the Lord’s feast of unity that is formed around His Gospel. Even when I do not share this faith with the person that I am engaged with, my objective in all matters should be to demonstrate Christ in what I think, say, and do. Divisions are made my people, they are fueled by Satanic fire, and they are always contrary to God’s will and outside of His desire for the way that His people would live in our world.

 

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Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15: 58

 

God’s original creation must have been an amazing place to live, for all was perfect there. Our relationship with God was close and very real, and our relationships with each other were open, honest, and intimate in every sense of that word. It seems that people did have work to do, but that work was fulfilling, and it was not continually being interrupted and pushed off track by disagreements and challenges in direction or of philosophy. The goal of that work appears to have been found in doing everything in a manner that was pleasing to the Lord and that made the world a better place in which to dwell. Profit and gain were not needed there because everything worked together to produce a bounty that was natural and organic in its source. But we know the story, and this did not last for very long before sin became the corrupting element in all of creation, and thorns and thistles entered into all of our work as that labor became very hard to accomplish.

 

Now in this passage, Paul is focusing on work that we do for the sake of the gospel and in the name of Christ, but the same concept regarding the effect of sin upon our efforts still applies. Even the things that we seek to do as a follower of Christ and in His name are impacted by the concept of the development of thorns and thistles in the midst of the work. These might be known as pride, jealousy, power, or by other names; however, regardless of what we call it, they are destructive and limit the effectiveness of our witness for Christ. Yet, in Christ we are changed, we are transformed by the work of His Spirit within us, and we do not need to be held captive by the laws and the rules of the old world and its culture of death. In Christ, all of the work that we do has a new and a redeemed purpose. For now, it is all done for the glory of the Lord and each aspect of it is also accomplished by and in His power.

 

Christ gives us a reason to get up in the morning and head off to work with a light step and joy in our hearts. He leads us into doing what we do with renewed purpose and with a vigor that comes from His presence with us in all of it. It doesn’t matter what we are skilled at, trained in, or called to do, we can dedicate all of our efforts to the Lord and do it as a part of His true calling of us to service in His kingdom. This is the sort of work that defeats the growth of the weeds that otherwise attempt to choke out productive effort and that cause us to lose focus on God’s desire for us to demonstrate eternity in all that we do. It is not so much the type or the nature of the labor that is important here; rather, it is the heart that is put into it and the dedication to Christ that fuels the effort that makes the difference. Christ desires that each of us would use our new lives in Him to work diligently for the redemption of our world, and this is accomplished by demonstrating and speaking Christ in all that we do.

 

 

I give thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;

before the gods I sing praise.

Psalm 138: 1

 

There are gods all around us. Just listen to the words that many people say. Hear the power and the self-appointed authority that propels their speech, and it is easy to appreciate the sense of deity that these people possess. In addition to public figures, we are asked to bow down to, to worship, many institutions, ideas, and pursuits. When Paul walked into the Areopagus on Mars Hill in Athens he did not encounter as many gods as we find in our modern world. We may not set up religious shrines and erect statues to depict their images, but we do seek favor from them, give our hearts and minds to their causes, and surrender our true wealth to their purposes. The rhythm of our days is often formed out of these worship practices.

 

God desires that we would live differently. He is jealous of our worship and wants it all for Himself. This is a valid form of jealousy, for the Lord will provide His people with everything that we need and does care for us completely and absolutely. More significantly, the Lord knows that this all too human drive to serve other gods distracts and diverts people away from service to the life-giving Gospel of Christ. As we enter into the lyrics of this world’s hymns we start to sound and to act just like people who do not know God. Our words become angry and bitter, and the love of Christ is pushed aside as we enter into the ebb and flow of an attack and defend mentality. None of this brings people closer to knowing Christ; so, all of this actually works against Christ’s purpose for His people in this world.

 

God holds a different perspective on the ways that people who know Him should practice our faith. Instead of holding our worship of the Lord as personal and private and our adoration of this world’s gods as public, God desires that we would live out our days as a continual song of praise to Him. The verses of this song of life can be filled with actions that are defined by grace, love, truth, and mercy. The chorus that we repeat would contain recognition and praise for all that the Lord is and does for us. This form of life-song is the most effective way to speak Christ into our world, and it is the sure way to defeat the call to worship of the false gods that surround us.