Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Every now and then I hear about people not being accepted into a church body for one reason or another. A recent church sign rose to prominence in this country, at a historically predominantly black congregation, saying that black people should never go to white churches. Let’s be clear. There’s no excuse for saying or thinking anything of the sort. At the same time, different congregations may well have their different cultures and flavors, and that isn’t necessarily bad. For example, I have never attended the Korean Baptist Church in the city where I live. Know why? Not because of any animus. Guess what language their services are in? Korean, right. If I understood the language I might be able to receive something good. Then again, our different understanding about the nature of conversion, the nature of the Lord’s Supper, and the efficacy of baptism would certainly cause tension or separation. It isn’t because of an ethnic difference, but of a doctrinal difference.
Ephesians 2:11-22 points us to Christ, the one who broke down cultural and ethnic separation. In this instance, Paul is speaking to an audience with a common language. My problem with understanding Korean was not an issue to Ephesians who were Jews, Ephesians who were Christians, and Ephesians who were followers of Artemis. They had a common language and many cultural elements in common. However, the Gentiles were not partakers of the covenant promises of God made to Israel. They were not part of the people who would be identified as God’s people. The signs of belonging to the covenant with Israel were many and clear. The people of Israel had specific customs of washing, eating, drinking, and prayers. They even had a very different calendar from native Ephesians. How would the two groups deal with the differences?
The key to it all is found in Jesus. Verses 13-16 specifically point to Jesus as the one who destroys divisions based on a cultural history or identity. If the doctrine, the teaching of Christ, is the same, the different cultural groups are one family.
Some people enjoy bold and fallacious slogans such as “Doctrine divides, but love unites.” The fact is, love built on Christ does unite, and it primarily unites us in doctrine. We find that if our teachings are in unity, the little things like culture, history, economics, and even language are relatively minor. The fellowship and unity we can have is built on the solid foundation of Christ, who builds his people into a great and mighty building. He breaks down the hostility and fastens us all together.
If this brief meditation was helpful to you, I hope you will check out the other materials on our website at www.WittenbergCoMo.com and consider supporting us.