It has been said that ours is a time in America with more polarization than at any time since the Civil War,
which is, actually, not a great benchmark.
Since the 2016 election, the associated press actually created a whole series on detailing this division in society.
Pew research has actually sown that since 1994,
Americans on both sides have moved to both more conservative and more liberal views:
Creating an even bigger divide.
And not only that, the research shows that people are more likely than ever to think that the other side’s policies are a threat to the nations well being.
We’re not only seeing the other “side” as opponents--
We see them as hostile enemies of our very wellbeing.
What seems to be an unprecedented division in OUR national memery,
Is actually far from unprecedented in the history of humanity.
In some ways, thse deivions are baked into the beginnings of Christian history.
So let’s think about it:
Our origins lie in Israel:
A country marked by sepration from the people around it.
And with good reason:
God had selected a group of people,
Consecraged to God in order to be a light to the nations around it.
A group to live differently I order to witness to the God.
And this separation, led to a distinction between Jews and gentiles that I don’t think we can really fully comprehend.
By the time of the New Testament,
Jews could not eat with Gentiles for fear of being made unclean,
And business with them was very difficult.
In the time when Paul was writing his letters,
There were Rabbis going so far as to say that Gentiles would be judged differently (and more harshly) for the same infractions as Jews.
It was certainly divided.
So it is significant:
That Paul makes the reconciliation of the Jews and the Gentiles such a significant part of the outflowing in salvation.
The introduction to Ephesians:
Our reading from Paul today,
Follows immediately upon a discussion of our salvation:
Of Christ bringing us back into a state of peace with God:
And of making our reconciliation with God possible.
In other words,
Paul’s discussion of the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile:
Of making of one people out of two:
Flows naturally from the reconciliation of humanity with God.
It’s as though Paul is saying that the state of separation that people find themesleves in (in the world) is a result of,
And flows out of our separation from God.
For those of us for whom the separation from God is overcome,
The worldly erected separations from each other are also overcome.
Paul elaborates on a sentence he makes in 2 Corinthians:
That we as Christians are entrusted with a “ministry of reconciliation”
Or that, we as Christians are called upon to help overcome and model the overcoming of the erected separations in the world.
We are called:
To make of one people, where there are two or more peoples.
We are called upon to work to overcome the divides and breaks,
That divide people into isolated groups.
And the fact of finding ourselves in this moment of unprecedented American division and polarization,
Actually provides us as Christians:
With the unprecedented opportunity to paradoxically set ourselves apart as different and unique because we are trying to live more and more into this overcoming of division.
An overcoming of division that God longs for.
And here you might think, yeah…. But what could Paul actually have to say about our current circumstances?
It might be helpful to consider the context in which Paul was writing.
Just a few short years before this writing to the Ephesians:
Not far away in Syria:
Jews and Gentles had been slaughtering each other.
And at the time of Paul writing this, these memories were still open and living wounds.
We’re not talking about a community where people were yelling at each other,
Or making nasty posts,
Or voting in different ways,
Or calling eachother names.
We’re talking about people literally killing each other in the streets.
So Paul is not talking about hurting each others feelings.
He’s talking about a real, significant, deep, and abding mistrust on both sides:
Borne out of real mutual violence and death.
And Paul wasn’t speaking to people for whom this was easy.
We don’t get off the hook by claiming that Paul somehow had it easier than us. (Because he didn’t!)
So what does this mean?
How do we live into this reconciliation:
This ministry of Reconciliation with God?
First: we look to the example that Paul offers us:
We are to recognize that,
Like the Jews in the early Christian community:
We have to be willing and ready:
To be brought into communion with those we see as “less than”
Or “unworthy” or even “harmful” to our community.
Second we are called upon to live into humility.
We cannot continue to hold that we are absolutely right and the other side is absolutely wrong.
We must be prepared to accept that we can be taught:
That we still might have something to learn:
And that we aren’t inherently right.
Our humility is not a posture to be walked all over:
If we let others walk all over us,
It wouldn’t be real reconciliation.
But at the same time, we are not to take the stance that we are always right.
And, humility is, after all:
Something that we are commanded by Christ:
The one who himself counted equality with God not as something to be grasped,
But instead emptied himself:
Taking the form of a servant.
And not only that,
But we are to practice profound empathy.
We have to start from a position that those with whom we may disagree are not pure monsters, or devils, as we are pure angels.
We have to assume that wg
We are to practice profound empathy. We have to start from a position that those with whom we may deeply disagree are not pure monsters or devils as we are pure angels. We cannot assume they are working any more our less out of abjection or perversion or rank selfishness. We have to assume that there is some sense of self interest but likely no more or less than those on our side too. We have to accept that there may be, like there are in our position, some valid points or at least concerns, and that people do have a capacity to look out for their own awareness of needs as well as profound capacity for self-delusion—just like us.
The great and interesting thing, and taken from a kind of worldly perspective, is that there is a capacity to be walked all over. If we act in good faith and only ever offer sacrifice of our privilege, humility, and empathy, we may fear that we are going to be taken advantage of and lose out. But that is only if only one "side" does this. The point is that in the church we are all supposed to look to ourselves and not be concerned about the other side. But if everyone does this then we are going to all have a community where by mutual sacrifice, humility, and empathy, we will arrive at a breakdown of the dividing walls. We will achieve more mutual understanding. But this means sacrificing our mistrust as well. Our position requires a posture of trust both that God will ultimately work through us to break down the dividing wall and that people can live into it. In doing this we can begin to model what the new community is, the wedding banquet of the lamb where our proud divisions cease, and we are able to anticipate no longer having to be identified as liberal or conservative or republican or democrat but as Christian, as members of the body of Christ.
Enjoy the weekly sermons at anytime.