The Likes of Us

Session 7.29

Introduction

Finding unity in Christ sounds good, but when we consider all the many ways people can and do disagree with each other, how is such unity found? In this letter to the church in Ephesus, we hear the call to look to Christ to find our unity and to overcome those things that keep us apart. Who is it that you struggle to find unity with?

Scripture: Ephesians 2:11-22

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’—a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

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Nikki’s Notes

Nikki shares some of her sources for inspiration and study as she develops her video script.

The book of Ephesians is unique from other letters attributed to Paul because it is not addressed to any one group of people or one congregation. Because of this and because of themes found in the book, many believe that this letter was actually a general letter intended for circulation. The universality of the letter makes the themes in it more accessible to us than letters that are written to specific people in a specific context.

The late date that the letter was written means that it was written to a group of Christians for whom the expectation of Christ’s imminent return had waned. They needed to be reminded that even though the return of Christ has taken longer than they expected, the presence of Christ is always with them. The promise is that the good work God has done through Christ continues to work with us and around us even today.

The text for today is addressing an important political dynamic that was an important part of the early church. The first followers of Jesus were Jewish. As the church spread, Gentiles who had already been following Christ began to participate. The church had to negotiate the differences between the two groups. Sometimes, they did this well; sometimes, they did this quite poorly. In today’s passage, the author is reminded the them that they all are a part of bringing the love of Christ into the world. The whole body of the church works together to show Christ to the world.

If I were teaching this passage, I would look for ways to get my group to identify the people they believe doesn’t really represent Christ in the world. I do not mean people of of other faith traditions, but rather people who identify as Christian but may not live in ways that agree with another’s perspective. We all have people who, deep down, we think don’t belong. When we can be honest about that piece, we will begin to move in ways that keep us from excluding those very people. When we can find a way to see others as God sees them, we may just find ourselves on the way to living into the kind of community that Paul is talking about.

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Nikki’s Video Script

The Likes of Us

Today, we are in our second week in the book of Ephesians and we are in 2:11-22. The book of Ephesians is a letter primarily to a group of Gentiles, striving to let them know all that has happened on their behalf in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ — and all of this comes to the forefront in today’s text.

Before, the law (and thousands of years of tradition) kept Jews and Gentiles separated. However, in today’s text, the apostle Paul is making clear that the division between these groups no longer exists. Before they were far away, but Christ has brought them near. Before circumcision defined one’s acceptance into the fold and now acceptance is offered to all through Jesus Christ. Jesus has broken down the walls that divided people and has brought a message of reconciliation and peace. As I was considering this passage for today, verses 17 and 18 really stuck out to me – Jesus came to preach to those who were close, meaning the Jesus and to those who were far, meaning Gentiles and the message was the same – one of peace and unity.

As we move on through the passage, we are reminded that in this new reality, no one is a stranger because Christ as made the way for us and we are all coming together as a dwelling place for God. Before this, it was believed that God dwelled in the temple – the temple was a strong structure that lasted for hundreds of years. Yet, this new dwelling that is being constructed in Christ is not made of mortar and cement. It is not a building with fortified walls — rather it is constructed out of the likes of us – frail human beings who are prone to mess up and wander; who are often selfish and lacking in empathy. The new dwelling place of God is not in a fixed structure, but within the lives of living, breathing, moving human beings.

As I think about this, I find myself considering all of the different kinds of people I know who follow Christ. Many of them disagree about a lot of different things — things like baptism and communion, things like divorce and abortion and sexuality. Some of these things have caused a great deal of division within the church. However, the way I read this passage all of these who follow Christ are brought together as one in the Spirit of Christ and we all contribute to the body in which Christ dwells in, in this world.

What a challenge to us all today. Who do you know that you think is not fit to be a dwelling place Christ. Is it that addict that tries desperately to follow Jesus, but just cannot seem to get it together; is it the single mom on food stamps that smokes to calm her nerves and strives to maintain a prayer life even though work keeps her from church; is it the guy at the conservative or liberal church (whichever is different than you) that posts all those articles on social media you cannot stand? Who is it that you struggle to find unity with?

What a challenge indeed – the likes of us; us human beings; are charged with the job of being the body of Christ in this world. We are now responsible for being the Christ made flesh to the world – it is an unlikely proposition – but it is one given to us by and in the spirit of God. May you find your way this week, to making space for God to dwell in you and through you to another unlikely fellow believer.

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