Pastor Brian Homan’s Devotion for June 21, 2019

Good morn­ing on this first day of sum­mer! Our read­ing for this Fri­day, June 21, 2019 is Eph­esians 2:11–21.

11 There­fore, remem­ber that for­mer­ly you who are Gen­tiles by birth and called “uncir­cum­cised” by those who call them­selves “the cir­cum­ci­sion” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he him­self is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the bar­ri­er, the divid­ing wall of hos­til­i­ty, 15 by abol­ish­ing in his flesh the law with its com­mand­ments and reg­u­la­tions. His pur­pose was to cre­ate in him­self one new man out of the two, thus mak­ing peace, 16 and in this one body to rec­on­cile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hos­til­i­ty. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spir­it. 19 Con­se­quent­ly, you are no longer for­eign­ers and aliens, but fel­low cit­i­zens with God’s peo­ple and mem­bers of God’s house­hold, 20 built on the foun­da­tion of the apos­tles and prophets, with Christ Jesus him­self as the chief cor­ner­stone. 21 In him the whole build­ing is joined togeth­er and ris­es to become a holy tem­ple in the Lord.NIV

Today’s pas­sage is all about belong­ing. We too often think in terms of who is in and who is left out. The peo­ple who are the sub­ject of the Apos­tle Paul’s con­cern are known as Gen­tiles, here iden­ti­fied as the “uncir­cum­cised” com­pared to the Jews who are known by as the cir­cum­cised. The Gen­tiles are all those who are not Jews. They could become “God-fear­ers” who left the wor­ship of any num­ber of gods to be fol­lowed in the var­i­ous cul­tures of the Roman world for the sole wor­ship of the One God wor­shipped by the Jews.

What attract­ed them to Judaism and pulled them away from these oth­er reli­gions? The Jews did not active­ly recruit Gen­tiles just as much as most church­es does not active­ly reach out to non-churched peo­ple. This is to our shame for this is our pro­claimed pur­pose to make dis­ci­ples. I think sub­con­scious­ly most Chris­tians in the pews of our church­es view dis­ci­ple­ship as a high­er stage of spir­i­tu­al life and so those who are more deeply com­mit­ted and active attempt to encour­age oth­ers more nom­i­nal­ly involved to “step up” in their com­mit­ment. We deal with those who come to us rather than going to oth­ers whether inside or out­side the church with the mes­sage of dis­ci­ple­ship.

The Gen­tiles Paul was address­ing were those who came to fol­low the Jew­ish faith were out­siders who kind of came into the fold, but they could become insid­ers. Today church­es talk about how friend­ly they are yet when out­siders start attend­ing they are nev­er real­ly accept­ed or find ready access to becom­ing insid­ers. So the church does not grow in num­bers because we “put obsta­cles” (as Jesus accused the Phar­isees of doing) in the way for inclu­sion or neglect the neigh­bors we have in close prox­im­i­ty to us but who stay away.

The ques­tion is what attract­ed these non-Jews to the Jew­ish faith? I believe the apos­tle iden­ti­fies the cause when he states they were for­mer­ly before faith “with­out hope and with­out God in the world.” The pur­suit of all the gods of this world, whether they be in sec­u­lar val­ues or diverse philoso­phies and oth­er reli­gions, have left these seek­ers to dead ends that did not sat­is­fy their spir­i­tu­al hunger. St. Augus­tine of the 4th cen­tu­ry wrote that our heart lack peace until we find our rest in God. The nat­ur­al pur­suit for God and the truth draws some while the major­i­ty is lost in their futile pur­suit for mean­ing and pur­pose.

 Some are drawn to faith in Christ due to the dis­sat­is­fac­tion they find in oth­er options or because the Holy Spir­it has used the wit­ness of Christ’s dis­ci­ples and the church to peek inter­est in Jesus. Well this is well and good it is also to our shame that when these seek­ers come into the church they find they are not read­i­ly accept­ed. Cer­tain­ly there is a need for spir­i­tu­al growth and rela­tion­ship build­ing through men­tor­ing and Chris­t­ian edu­ca­tion, but no mat­ter their stage in the jour­ney of faith they need to be con­sid­ered fam­i­ly mem­bers.

What the insti­tu­tion­al­ized faith of Judaism failed to do these God Fear­ers found ready accep­tance in the new branch of Jew­ish faith which fol­lowed Jesus. This is one rea­son for the church’s rapid expan­sion in the first cen­tu­ry after Pen­te­cost. My point is that for the church to grow in our day and time its mem­bers must be whol­ly and sole­ly com­mit­ted to Jesus. This means being active­ly invest­ed in grow­ing in faith and ser­vice. Nat­u­ral­ly this pri­or­i­ty will exclude greater par­tic­i­pa­tion in activ­i­ties and plea­sures that are not nec­es­sar­i­ly wrong but which dis­tract us from grow­ing.

Those com­mit­ted to Christ accept as their call­ing to relate to and invite their neigh­bors to rela­tion­ship and fel­low­ship with God’s peo­ple. Once they come they men­tor and receive the less expe­ri­enced as mem­bers of the church and endeav­or to enlist them with reach­ing out to oth­er neigh­bors with the truth and of Christ and inti­mate com­pan­ion­ship with him and the fam­i­ly of God. The apos­tle was remind­ing the church of Eph­esus of where they came from and what they were called to be and do.  May we live up to this aspi­ra­tion and encour­age our church­es to do the same.

Bless­ings! Dr. Bri­an Homan