I still remember every detail of that morning in church: The harsh words—spoken by a church leader no less!—piercing through me, the indignation and anger that bubbled up, and the helplessness my friends and I felt over the situation.
Unfortunately, witnessing disagreements in church is not new to me. I’ve heard hurtful words being tossed around by fellow believers, and seen how it can potentially tear apart a once tight-knit community.
Which is why I can relate to what the apostle Paul means by the “dividing wall of hostility” (v. 14). In this passage, he was describing the spiritual wall that separated the Jews from the Gentiles. Because the Jews saw themselves as God’s “chosen ones”, they could not accept that the special privilege of their heritage had to be shared with these “outsiders”—the Gentiles—who were uncircumcised and not part of the Israel they knew.
Though Paul was addressing the church of Ephesus, which was primarily made up of Gentiles, I also saw a similar division play out in our church that day, as factions formed and we started blaming and holding grudges against each other, refusing to listen to and understand the other side’s point of view. The wall that separated us was constructed by our own version of justice, coupled with our personal grievances, and we could not see past our differences to reconcile with one another.
Yet Paul firmly reminds us how Jesus Himself is the perfect model of reconciliation. Jesus came, died, and rose again so He could unite us with God, “breaking down the wall of hostility” (v. 14) that had once separated God’s chosen people from those who were “foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God” (v. 12). He Himself became our peace. He is the bridge between God and mankind, allowing us to reconcile.
Our reconciliation with God should compel us to seek reconciliation with fellow believers. If we have been bought with the same sacrifice—Jesus’s—and into the same kingdom—God’s—then it follows that we receive the same citizenship, the same new life, the same truth and love that binds us. God’s reconciliation of His church means that our hostility against each other can be “put to death” (v. 16). We no longer have to hold onto the pain and hurt stemming from irreconcilable differences, but can learn to forgive each other.
As I discovered first-hand, it can be really difficult to let go of our grievances, and much easier (satisfying even!) to hold onto our grudges. However, when we choose to not forgive, we dishonour God’s sacrifice. We choose our self-righteousness and sense of fairness over God’s righteousness and justice and truth.
Only when we choose forgiveness and reconciliation can we truly be “one body” (v. 16) and members of God’s family (v. 19). Together, we are God’s temple, with Christ being the Cornerstone—the Pillar on which the whole structure rests.
Even though there wasn’t any resolution to that disagreement, I have learned to put aside my hurt and anger, and to see that Christ is our bridge for reconciliation. For me, that means forgiving and learning to pray for those in His family who have hurt me, understanding that a loving family brought together through reconciliation is what He desires. It definitely was not easy, having to rethink and relive those moments but in His strength, I choose Christ and His peace over my feelings.
—By Constance Goh, Singapore
Questions for reflection
Father, I praise You for reconciling me to You through Jesus. Thank you for showing me that barriers can be broken and hostilities defused because of Jesus’s work on the cross. Help me surrender my hurts in exchange for Your peace.
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