In Ephesians 2, Paul is explaining what he will later refer to as the mystery of Christ (Eph 3:4). In Ephesians 3, he says, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph 3:6).
Despite the protest of some Jewish Christians, the Gentiles were equal members with them in the church. Though the Gentiles were once alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, God brought them near by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:12-13). “So then,” Paul says, “they are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19).
You can probably imagine the tension it created. I still remember the challenges that I faced in the aftermath of my conversion. Suddenly, my world revolved around Christ. I wanted to talk about him. I wanted study the Bible. But the same wasn’t true for most of friends. I still wanted to go out drinking with them, but my conscience began protesting, “Don’t do it.”
I knew that I belonged with the saints in the church, but it was a difficult transition. In my church, there were hardly any people my age. Plus, I still had worldly interests which were not shared by others. I felt as though I was forcing myself into someone else’s family. It was uncomfortable at first.
Look around the church. How much do we really have in common with one another? Danae and I don’t have any kids, but some of you do. I like watching baseball while some of you are thinking, Baseball? Is that still around? I could listen to the music of Bob Dylan all day long, but you might consider that torture. Maybe you enjoy running or fishing, but I would much rather sit on the patio with a good book.
Some of us grew up churched. We’ve sat on pews listening to Bible stories as long as we can remember. Some of us, however, were approaching midlife before we learned that a man named Jesus died on a Roman cross. Our backgrounds and experiences are radically different.
Just imagine what the church would be if we came from different countries and wildly divergent cultures. Unity would feel like a pipe dream. Even the drawing power of God can’t reconcile some people. Right?
Wrong. The early church is proof that even groups who were once hostile to one another can come together in Christian unity. It may take time and maturity, but we shouldn’t underestimate the manifold wisdom of God nor the working of his power (Eph 3:10, 7).