"Piece together these little mysteries It isn't hard to see the writing on the wall. Triumph and tragedy, only God can be Both the builder and the wrecking ball ."
These words come from the lines of a song written by Andy Gullahorn for his wife Jill Phillips which was recorded on her Writing on the Wall album in 2003. The lyrics reflect on the work of God in the life of a believer. Sometimes we sit "wondering why...He builds it up And He knocks it down Just to build it up even stronger." (aren't those tremendous lines?) Anyway, I have been meditating the last couple of weeks on how God is another kind of builder and wrecking ball. Ephesians 2:14-18 says it this way:
Ephesians 2:14-18 (MSG) 14 The Messiah has made things up between us so that we're now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. 15 He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody. 16 Christ brought us together through his death on the Cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. 17 Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. 18 He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father. (The Message, boldface mine)
Wow! What tremendous hope for us ALL! The language used in this passage absolutely makes my heart cry out! Now, we have to remember that this passage was written in the context of the New Testament Jewish/Gentile dichotomy. We also have to keep in mind that the new dividing wall was redemption in Christ as opposed to salvation through the Mosaic Law. However, I believe this passage gives clear direction as to how the church should respond to those who do not follow Christ. I'll be covering my insights over the next few blogs. The first one is listed below.
1. The Authentic Body of Christ will be made up of many different types of people.
Our finite minds can't comprehend the variety of people we will be with in eternity. Christianity has become a sub-cutlure in Western American churches. Subcultures are made up of commonalities such as language, dress, accepted behavioral standards, similar thought processes, artistic preferences (music, literature, etc...), and other elements that have little to do (in and of themselves) with Christ's work in the life of a believer. Rob Bell from Mars Hill Church says that if you want to get a taste of Western Christian sub-culture, just enter the lobby of almost any Christian bookstore in the country. How comfortable would your unbelieving friends feel perusing the aisles of a modern Christian bookstore? (don't get me wrong, I love Christian bookstores, one of my good friends, Cynthia, works at one)
Friend, there is good news! Anyone on the face of planet Earth can come to know Jesus Christ in the same way anyone else on planet Earth can know Him! Christian sub-culture separates us from those who are not Christ-Followers in the way that the dividing wall of the court of the gentiles separated the gentiles from the Jews in the temple. (See it Here...Read about it here) This is what Jesus is referring to in verse 14b. The dividing wall mentioned here was probably a short barrier about 5 feet tall that ran around the base of the 14 steps leading up to the temple proper. This wall marked the boundary through which gentiles were not allowed to pass...even those that had converted to Judaism! This was the area in which Christ turned over the tables of the money changers (Matt. 21:12).
Paul referred to Christ as a wrecking ball! He broke down the dividing wall and made the two one. But wait, how can He be a wrecking ball and the Maker of One? As he tore down the wall, he built up the Body of Christ. He expanded His Kingdom through Grace and acceptance of those who were very different...those on the outside! Shouldn't that be the response of a community of faith in 2007. Wide open arms just waiting for those who are very different to come running for embrace (v. 26b). The image of the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son just screams in my mind. EMBRACE!
So my question is this. What have I done this week to build up the dividing wall between myself and those who are not followers of Christ? What have the people of God done in the past 2000 years to create barriers for people to come to know Christ? There are enough barriers already in place that unbelievers have to overcome (pride, self-sufficiency, trusting good works, intellectualism, etc...) without me placing more 5-foot walls in their way. What are some of those walls we've built? This topic is for another post (and even the last one where I talk about the word church). You can probably come up with your own, but I'm thinking of things such as expecting people to clean up their act before they come to Jesus. I'm pondering why I would expect someone to be just like me in order to be a solid follower of Christ. Yes, there are attitudes and behaviors that the Holy Spirit will develop in followers over time (ie...Gal. 5:22-23), but that is the work of the Holy Spirit, not the work of someone like myself who is struggling with his own flesh and trying to figure out what a personal faith walk means.
My job is to simply embrace and serve ALL people, to be nurtured by those farther along than myself and to share my experience with those who are not quite so far along. God will take care of all the other stuff.
May the peace of the Builder and the Wrecking Ball rest upon your life...
Just a Thought...