PFOA: Ephesians 2:14-22
When the Second World War (WWII) ended in 1944 with the use of the atomic bomb, it was believed that it was the war that would end all wars. More than anything else, the peoples of the world wanted peace, and the in next year, the United Nations (UN) was established to prevent future conflicts. Yet within five years, the UN itself became embroiled in the Korean War (1950-1953). What happened to peace?
It was at this time that Billy Graham published his book “Peace with God – The Secret of Happiness”. As with the key message of his many crusades and rallies around the world, this spoke to a world in search of peace and happiness. Is today any different? The question often asked is not “Is the world a better place today than before?” but “Is the world a safer place today?”
In verse 14, Paul says “he [Christ] himself is our peace”. The immediate context is the hostility between Jews and Gentiles. Even when worshipping in the temple, the Jews kept themselves separate from believing Gentiles (proselytes) by a dividing wall. By dying on the cross, he atoned for our sins and made reconciliation possible. He abolished all human regulations and traditions and met the requirements of the law for the redemption of sinners. In this way he became our peace – peace with God, and peace with one another in Christ. In this passage, Paul is focussing on the latter.
One of the tragedies of war, which in itself is a major tragedy, is “friendly fire”. As a result of mistakes, lack of or poor communications, wrong, insufficient or inaccurate information and even misinformation, combatants find that they are targetted by fellow comabtants from the same side. The barrage of artilery fire fell short on the troops it was supporting instead of the enemy beyond; or the rescue helicopter was mistaken for an enemy aircraft and was shot down.
Friendly fire has many casualties in the Church too. We all know of many who have been discouraged from continuing their minstry and service by gossip and criticism. Pastors, church and mission leaders have resigned their posts because of attacks and destructive criticisms from members and fellow leaders. We need to stand firm, hold on to what we have, be faithful (Rev. 2 & 3); but some seem to relish “contending for the faith” by mounting attacks not just on the doctrines and practices, but extending them to the person and his character. So we have fundamentalists discerning “evil and apostasy” in everyone else; charismatics describing others as not having the power of the Holy Spirit; some are stuck in their traditions; others are too-compromising with the world’s culture and materialism; older ones have lost their relevance; younger ones seeking change becoming impatient; and so on.
Paul in other places has much to say about having peace with God, e.g. Rom. 5:1, but in these verses he speaks about peace between Jews and Gentiles. In our context today, he is speaking to us about peace between believers, whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female (Gal. 3:28). We are now in Christ, fellow citizens of God’s kingdom, members of his household. We are joined together, built together on Christ and on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and all those who have gone before us, into a dwelling for God. Individually, each of us have the Holy Spirit in us, but it is together that we become the dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. Elsewhere we are reminded that together, as the Church, we are the bride of Christ.
We need one another. “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” Rom. 14:19 (ESV).