I worked for several years as an over-the-road flatbed truck driver, delivering all kinds of construction materials, often to job sites around the country. One of my favorite loads was clay pipe, made in Ohio and delivered to a housing project outside Sioux City. The pipe, which has a 100-year guarantee, would provide drainage for a new neighborhood and the contractor wanted me to take my tractor trailer down a winding clay “road” that he had created using his imagination and a bulldozer. I considered his request for about two seconds before I said: “no.” Driving this truck and trailer every day in all kinds of weather and road conditions led me to know, with definite certainty, what situations I could get out of, and which ones I could not. Heading down this “road” would mean being drug out by a bulldozer at best and a series of tow trucks at worst. “No, it’s impossible.”
The book of Ephesians looks at an impossible situation. People of different religious backgrounds, Jews and Gentiles, have come together in order to form something new. They are now “Christians,” followers of Jesus Christ, and equal members of the church. That new status didn’t erase the prejudices that had accumulated over years and years. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was very specifically designed to protect the holiness of God by only allowing access to certain people. Gentiles were permitted only so far. There was even a warning that any Gentile who trespassed beyond a certain point would be killed.
Jesus’ life and death created unique access for anyone who would believe in him. He created a new entity, the church, filled with anyone who desired to follow him. And many did, beginning with Jews and then expanding into the known world, full of Gentiles. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was replaced by the body of Christ’s followers in the church. So, Paul is writing a letter to the Ephesian church, a diverse group of Jews and Gentiles. He adjusts their perspective by pointing out that Christ removed the barriers between them, giving them an equal status and an equal way of access to God the Father.
Do you find yourself in an impossible situation? God’s not in the business of pulling big trucks out of ditches, but He does resolve impossible problems! If God, through Christ, can remove the boundaries for Jews and Gentiles to become one in the church, then surely God is at work to foster and encourage unity in our church!