I recently coached a small group for Cru’s Bible Study Methods class, a required course for all staff members. I’ve done this twice before, but because of COVID-19, this was unique – the entire class took place online. Between the group sessions and coaches’ meetings, I spent four hours on Zoom every weekday for two and a half weeks!
The course blends principles with hands-on practice studying the book of Ephesians. In studying the book when I prepared to coach the first time, a major theme I had not seen before jumped out at me: unity in an ethnically mixed church.
The churches in and around Ephesus included both Gentile and Jewish Christians (see Acts 19). Before I studied the historical and cultural background of this book, I didn’t realize the depth of hostility between Jews and Gentiles of that era. For example, the IVP Bible Background Commentary says “Around the time Paul was writing these words, arguing for racial unity in Christ, Jews and Syrians were massacring each other in the streets of Caesarea, a city where he had been not long before (Acts 23:23).”
It’s in this racially charged context that Paul reminds a mixed Gentile and Jewish church of how Christ has unified them:
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14-16, ESV)
Christ, through His cross, reconciles people of all ethnicities to God, making them one.
The daily news brings painful proof that in our broken world, different ethnic groups tend to be alienated from one another. But Ephesians convinces me that God can and will unite Christ-followers of different ethnicities by the power of His Holy Spirit when we trust Him to do so.
Please pray with me that God will make churches into beacons of racial reconciliation as we “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3, ESV).