For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near …
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household … (verses 14-17, 19)
For the Jews, the deepest divide in all humanity was the one separating themselves from the Gentiles. The Jews knew well their own incredible privilege in the Lord – unfortunately, it bred pride in themselves and contempt for others. They knew the religious laws of clean versus unclean, which caused them to keep their distance from those who were considered pagan. And they knew from history, and their own current conditions under Roman oppression, that the Gentile world was often a source of incredible pain and injustice and trauma. The resulting divide was deep.
But all along the Lord had intended to bless the Gentiles through the blessing he had poured out on the Jews, that “all peoples on earth (would) be blessed” through them (Gen 12:3). He intended to bring salvation to all nations, not keeping it contained to one nation alone. He intended to do so through his Servant, Messiah, who would be “a light for the Gentiles, that (he) may bring … salvation to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).
All of this, of course, was accomplished in Jesus. In bringing reconciliation to God for those beyond the confines of Israel, Jesus brought reconciliation of both parties with each other, across this great divide. “He himself is our peace,” making the two one, removing the division, tearing down the barrier, and destroying the hostility. Peace with God, resulting in peace with one another – this was Jesus’ goal.
That goal has now been accomplished. The cross has done it.
Paul, as an unyielding Pharisee, had been as committed as any to maintaining the chasm. But now, in Christ, he joyfully sets it aside. In embracing the cross, and the grace bestowed, Paul fervently embraced the resulting new humanity, no longer sharply divided, but now made into one.
If such radical reconciliation could come about for such ancient foes, then anything is possible in our current setting. Yes anything, but only in Christ. It is he alone who makes the two one. He alone tears down dividing walls. He alone eliminates hostility. He is the one who makes reconciliation possible. But alternately, if our new life is truly “in him” then it should make ongoing divisions unthinkable. How could we possibly put up with divisions between white and black, indigenous and non-indigenous, western and eastern, developed world and under-developed? How could we maintain hostilities towards groups of Christians who hold different theology and practice than our own? How could we continue with personal divisions resulting from past, or current, hurts and slights? Are any of these things big enough to thwart the purposes of Christ’s cross?
The problem, of course, is that we are imperfect people still, so our divisions and differences and antagonisms persist. But our Lord himself went to the cross to remove it all. It is his purpose, by his Spirit, to pour out more and more of the reconciliation and healing he has already won.
He himself is our peace. Will we embrace it?
Lord Jesus, you are indeed our peace. I choose to embrace it all. Give me eyes to see where my old perspectives are getting in the way of the new-ness you have won. Grant me strength by your Spirit in my inner being to extend forgiveness and reconciliation and full fellowship, especially at those points I find it most difficult. To your glory. To the renown of your peace.
Reflect: Are there any relationships, with individuals or groups, where you are struggling to embrace peace? Put it into the Lord’s hands. Ask for his direction. Follow his lead.
Photo by Josue Michel on Unsplash