In truth, I picked Ephesians because it had six chapters, and Philippians had four. I wanted a good solid 10 weeks of study in the Bible this summer. Philippians is my favorite, but I hadn’t really delved into Ephesians. I only picked it for a number of its chapters to match Philippians.
But this chapter couldn’t have come at a better time.
The chapter begins with Paul telling the Ephesians more about how God’s rich grace has saved them from their sin, like in the first chapter. How they all “gratified the cravings of their sinful nature, following its desires and thoughts, and were by nature objects of wrath.” (v. 3) We are saved through Christ, through the grace through faith, not by our hands or by our works.
This leads up to the second part of the chapter, about the Gentiles and the Jews. The Jews had been the chosen people for so long, their culture permeated with signs of this promise – from the annual festivals, to what they didn’t eat, even to circumcision. This was still so prevalent, that in Ephesians 2:11, Paul mentions that the Jews were referring to the Gentiles as the “uncircumcised” and that they were “the circumcision.” There was this cultural wall between these two peoples.
And here is where it gets good.
Right now, this resonates with me. In our world, we have so many cultures that are divided and hostile to each other – racially, ethnically. Immigrant versus those who have generations born here. Rich versus middle class versus poor. Law enforcement versus minorities. Over and over again, groups pitted against each other in hostility
He, himself, is our peace…by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.
We may not hold Jewish law over others around us, but we do hold our own bias cultural standards and expectations. We expect people to behave in a certain way, to uphold customs they didn’t grow up with, and if they don’t, they haven’t earned a seat at our table, a place in the conversation.
But here is the rub! The rest of verse 15 and verse 16:
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.
In Christ, there is no us vs them. When Christ died to deliver us from our transgressions, he held us to the standard of the Spirit, not any cultural standard. We are justified by his grace, not by our own wisdom or strength or expectations. And it is by being unified in the Spirit that we are saved through the Spirit. Because when we walk in the Spirit, we will not be gratified by the desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16) or be objects of wrath. Instead, we pursue peace. We pursue peace instead of comfort, success, or expectation.
When it comes to those people in my life that I find hard to trust in relationship. I don’t want to be hurt, and I’ve been hurt so many times, let down so many times by people I thought knew better. Especially when it comes to this journey of pregnancy loss. The majority of my friends and family and all of you in my wonderful community have been nothing but gracious, understanding, and sincere. I’m quite spoiled, actually because I know that there are women who go through pregnancy loss without the support of a community like you.
But there are people who have said and done things, knowing what I have been through, that have hurt me. I expected them to respond to me in one way, because obviously that is the way to handle the situation, and they don’t or are unable to, and I get hurt. I get let down. And I have to forgive, but that’s hard.
Because forgiveness is giving up that right to be hurt, giving up the right to set the expectations. To give God the control of that relationship, trust that He will heal that hurt, and respond in the ways of the Spirit, not the flesh.
It also means living by the Spirit’s expectations and not other people’s expectations. And that means listening to the Spirit, praying and surrendering to God. After reading this chapter, it’s what I have been convicted to pursue, not on my own strength, but with the strength and guidance of Christ in my life.