How Did Christ Tear Down the Wall?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Ephesians 2:14-16

In yesterday's reflection, we saw that Christ destroyed the wall that divided Jews from Gentiles, thus bringing peace and making both groups one. How did Christ actually destroy this wall of separation, this "dividing wall of hostility"?

Ephesians 2:15 explains that Christ destroyed this barrier "by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations." The use of the word "flesh" here is unusual in the Pauline letters, but it clearly refers to the body of Christ sacrificed on the cross. In the letter to the Colossians, we read, "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight" (Col. 1:21-22). The death of Christ satisfied the demands of the law, thus setting it aside.

How did this abolishing of the law break down the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles? For one thing, Jews believed that they and they alone could be in relationship with the one true God by keeping the law. The law represented their specialness and ensured their salvation. Moreover, we saw yesterday that many Jews considered the law to be an impenetrable barrier between themselves and non-Jews. The law kept Jews from interacting with and being polluted by pagans. It fostered separatism and a sense of religious and moral superiority. This did not sit well with the Gentiles, who despised the Jewish reluctance to participate fully in Greco-Roman society, including but not limited to festivals honoring pagan gods.

But, by satisfying the law's demands, Christ opened up a new avenue to salvation, a new way for all people to be in relationship with God. All people have sinned, including both Jew and Gentile. And all people are saved by God's grace offered through the death of Christ. Thus, the law no longer functions to guarantee unique access for Jews to have relationship with God. It no longer supports the hostile division between Jews and Gentiles.

As we consider the implications of this teaching for our lives, it strikes me as sadly ironic that so many Christians have rebuilt a wall of hostility between believers and non believers. The bricks of this wall are composed of moral and ceremonial rules and regulations. We look down upon those who don't worship as we worship or who sin in ways we have judged to be particularly nasty. Our judgmental attitude has repelled many in our day from the grace of God offered in Jesus Christ to all people.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you erected walls in your life that keep you separate from those who need God's grace? What "dividing walls of hostility" might Christ want to break down in your life? In your church? In your family? In your circle of friends? In your city?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for fulfilling the law's demands so that I might be saved, not by my inadequate works, but by your more-than-adequate grace. Thank you for shattering the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles by the sacrifice of your flesh on the cross. Thank you for offering through your death, not only reconciliation with God, but also reconciliation among people.

Help me, Lord, not to erect new walls that keep others from your grace. Free me from a judgmental and haughty attitude. In all of my relationships, may I demonstrate your grace and mercy, living sacrificially for others even as you lived and died sacrificially for me. Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.

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