“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” – Ephesians 2:14-17
BREAKING DOWN THE DIVIDING WALL
by Ben Bradley
We live in a divided and hostile society. It seems likely that it will get worse rather than better. Racial injustice, partisan politics, cultural clashes on an array of moral and ethical issues – not to mention endless hostile arguments on social media – are becoming the new norm for our society. And if we are honest, division and hostility are not only found in our society, but often in ourselves.
In first-century Ephesus, there was massive division and hostility between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews considered themselves “near to God” because of their history as God’s chosen people. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were “far off from God.” Their society was divided and the Ephesian church was likewise struggling to maintain unity among its members. Why can’t we all just get along?
Each of us think we desire unity and yet, we also think we are right and others are wrong. Our way is “nearer” to the right way. It becomes impossible to extend peace to people who are “far away” from what we think is right. That makes it hard to maintain unity, even in the church. And the world has failed over and over again to offer an effective solution to this problem.
What is God’s solution? The cross. Jesus’ unjust death on that old, rugged cross is God’s solution to human division and hostility. Paul says that Jesus has “broken down in his flesh, the dividing wall of hostility.” Consider the reason for the cross, the reason for Jesus taking our punishment onto himself and enduring suffering and pain in his physical body. It was our sin. By our sin we have offended a perfect and holy God. The hostility and division between one person and another pales in comparison to the hostility and division that exists because of sin between each individual and the holy God that created them.
The cross of Jesus Christ removes the hostility that we faced for our sin. Now we have peace with God because of Jesus, “For he himself is our peace.”
Before we can ever hope to experience peace on earth, we must first experience peace with God available only through the cross. As we grow in our understanding of this gospel truth, we can extend peace to other sinners around us. Why? Because we recognize that our way to peace with God is the same as their way to peace with God – through the cross of Jesus Christ.
We recognize that they, like us, are equally unable to come near to God on their own merits. They, like us, are fully dependent on His sacrifice to cleanse us from sin. As we embrace this gospel of peace for ourselves, we will naturally extend that peace to others. We will truly desire unity and actively work to remove division. We can’t cling to our false notions that we are “nearer” to God than those we see as “far off.” We can no longer maintain our hostility toward sinners in need of grace because we are sinners in need of grace. We know that only Jesus can “reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
Praise God that though we were hostile to God because of our sin, we were made citizens in God’s kingdom and even adopted into God’s family because of the cross!
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been
brought near by the blood of Christ.
– Ephesians 2:13
FAMILY LENT ACTIVITY
Spend time as a family focused on Jesus and the cross. Do all of these activities at one time or mix and match throughout the week.
• Play Hide & Seek as a family. Talk about what it would be like if you hid somewhere and got trapped in your hiding spot, stuck there until someone came to rescue you. That is what the blood of Christ does, rescues people who are stuck outside and brings them near.
• Do a craft with the word “peace” and talk about what peace is. What does it mean that Jesus is our peace?
• Discuss: What does it mean to be excluded from something or to be an alien or stranger? What does the blood of Christ do for outsiders?
• Pray as a family.
Take time to be still before God and pray, using these starter prayers to guide your time.
• Forgive me for boasting in things other than your cross.
• Thank you for the incredible grace you extend through the cross of Jesus Christ. Kindle in me a holy fire of adoration for you and the uniting work you accomplished on the cross.
• By the Spirit, help me live a crucified life that reflects the all-surpassing truth and glory of being united to Christ through his work on the cross.
Cornerstone Communications Ministry Leader
Ben is the Communications Ministry Leader at Cornerstone Church and oversees graphic design, print, web, and social media. Ben has been on staff since 2004 and lives in Ames with his wife, Sarah, and their two boys.