Read Ephesians 3:1-13.
Whenever I’ve heard this passage taught or preached in our heritage in years past, the main thought developed was always how that the church is a part of God’s eternal purpose (vs.11) and that it was specifically “through the church” that “the manifold wisdom of God should be made known” (vs.10). Depending on what ax was to be ground, the message could take any of a number of paths, but almost all of them led to three thoughts: (1) never forget the exalted place of the church in God’s eyes, (2) stay busy with church work and/or (3) the church shouldn’t farm out to other organizations what the church should be busy doing.
Now without commenting on the validity or application of any of those three messages, let me just say that I find it fascinating – and quite unsettling! – that what is almost always ignored in said lessons is the context of these statements regarding the church. And the essence of that context is summed up in some of the words preceding that thought in vs.10-11:
“… the mystery of Christ … is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (vs.4-6)
In other words, the mystery the church is privileged to claim and proclaim is that what were once mile-high barriers between people are barriers no more to Christians. The church is the “place” where people with totally different backgrounds unite completely. All people, regardless of ethnic or heritage, stand not only on level ground before God, embrace each other in Christ’s church. In the church, the mysterious barrier between people has been knocked down. Racism, the way of the world, has no place in the church of Christ.
There are at least two big lessons for us here now. (1) It’s clearly all too easy for us to ignore the tip of the spear in terms of application as to something God has to say to us. That is, we being the fallen humans that we are, tend to run to those portions of God’s word that we want to hear or don;t mind hearing and tend to flee from those parts we deeply need to hear. (2) As long as racism exists, there is a tremendous amount of restoration yet to be done in the church of Christ. As long as we still see each other first as Hispanics or Anglos, African Americans or Asians, we have yet to become the fullness of the proclamation of the mystery – just Christians.
Heavenly Father, for ears to carefully hear all you have to say to me and for arms to gladly embrace all who embrace you, I pray. Amen.