On Sunday evenings, our teenagers have been looking into Ephesians. Last Sunday, we looked at 2:11-22 where Paul contrasts our status before God without Christ with our status before God with Christ: without Christ, we were excluded outsiders without hope and without God in the world (11-12). However, with Christ we are no longer at war but at peace with God; indeed Christ himself is our peace (14). Christ’s death in our place makes all the difference - bringing us near to God, because our peace is real, tangible, lasting reconciliation with him! Peace with God is our greatest need in life and death. But there’s more….
Christ’s death means peace with each other because he has “created in himself one new humanity in place of two” (15). Rather than ‘Jew’ and ‘Gentile’ there is “one body” (16). Hostility is put to death.
Since Sunday, I’ve been reflecting on the implications of Ephesians 2 - they are numerous and profound, but the one I feel most keenly concerns our response to racism. The Bible couldn’t be clearer that all humans are equal before God. No people, race or nation can claim to be superior - all are created in God’s image, and in salvation, as co-heirs in Christ (3:6).
I feel troubled and angry when I see yet more racism and social division on the news. While hesitate to comment on the unrest in the United States because I haven’t followed the story particularly closely and American culture is quite different, nonetheless, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last Monday during his arrest by police was an appalling injustice. The history of how black people have been treated in the US is vile and the riots over recent days show just how angry people are. I find it incredible that it’s still a serious problem in 2020 but then again human nature hasn’t changed. By nature, we war against God and each other.
That’s not to say that it’s not a big problem here in the UK. But this last football season black players have been insulted and abused in our national team and in the Premier League. Sadly, similar incidents occur up and down the country in all walks of life and not just on the basis of skin colour. By nature, we divide and discriminate on the basis of all sorts of differences - age, gender, nationality, intellect, education, wealth, accent… the list goes on.
These problems are too big for us to solve but Paul is clear about how we as the Church are to respond to the peace that Jesus brings. Since we have peace with God and with each other, we must reflect that peace in the way that we live. Indeed, the Church - Jew and Gentile united - is God’s means of showing off his wisdom to a watching world (3:10-11). As Christians, we are citizens of the same city, members of the same family and bricks stuck together in the same building: the Church, in all its diversity, was designed to be together (19-22). Let’s ensure, then, that St Peter’s remains a place where all are welcome whoever we are, wherever we’re from and whatever we’ve done.
Finally, let’s pray that our unity in diversity will be intriguing, appealing and compelling for people who join us or look on from a distance. God has put us on display - to show off his wisdom and give peace to all who are prepared to receive it.
We hope and pray that the SPLOG (St Peter's blog) will provide encouragement & spiritual food during the coronavirus crisis. It's mainly for the St Peter's church family, but everyone's welcome to read it!