You Were Left OutDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
If you've ever experienced being left out, you know how unpleasant this can be. Perhaps, when you were growing up, you didn't fit with the "cool kids" at school. Or, perhaps you feel left out even today, not really welcome among the "in groups" at work or at church. When your "friends" get together, they always seem to forget to invite you.
In the second half of Ephesians 2, Paul reveals that the recipients of his letter were once left out in a major way. Their exclusion did more than just hurt their feelings, however. As Gentiles, referred to by Jews with the derogatory title, "uncircumcised" (2:11), they were once "separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise" (2:12). Cut off from the people of God, they were "without hope and without God in the world" (2:12).
This is the second time in Ephesians 2 that Paul has diagnosed our dire state apart from God. As you may recall, the first half of Ephesians 2 begins with the bad news that we were captive to the ways of the world and its diabolical ruler, compelled to gratify our sinful cravings, and deserving divine wrath. In a word, we were "dead in [our] transgressions and sins" (2:1). If that weren't bad enough, now we learn that we who are separated from God's people are also disconnected from God and his gifts of promise and hope.
Why does Paul begin this passage with such bad news? Partly, he is providing a backdrop so that the work of Christ might be rightly understood. But Ephesians 2:11-12 is not meant only to inform us. These verses are also intended to soften our hearts so that we might receive the good news with gratitude and joy. They prepare us to understand the work of Christ more deeply and to celebrate this work more jubilantly.
Yes, we were once left out of God's people. But that's just the beginning of the story. Stay tuned....
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced the feeling of being left out of some group you wish included you? How did you feel? What did you do with these feelings? Do you feel connected to God's people, to his hope and promise?
PRAYER: Gracious God, I don't like hearing bad news. But I recognize that it's important to hear what is true, even if it's not what I would prefer. On my own, apart from your grace, I am excluded from your people. Worse still, I am cut off from you, from your salvation, from the hope you offer in Christ.
How I thank you that Ephesians 2:11-12 is not the end of the story, but just the beginning. May it prepare me to understand more deeply how your grace touches my life and to rejoice more fully because of what you have done in my life. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.