Christopher B. Harbin
We like to make distinctions between people. It is part of human nature to categorize people into different groups and classes. We use all kinds of categories to make judgment calls about others, to define who is worthy and who is unworthy. Like proposed anti-gay legislation in Kansas this week, we want to deny services and even humanity to people who are different from us, act differently than us, or in one way or another make us uncomfortable. The Jim Crow laws from the southern states in the US in years past were little more than an attempt to prop one section of the society up while keeping another portion “in its place.” As abhorrent as so many of those laws should seem to us, there is just not a whole lot of difference between the Nazi attitudes against Jews and the attitudes we still use to keep others in some class of being unworthy. In so doing, we miss so much of the gospel message that would brush aside all of these attempts to make us out to be more worthy than others.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians of God’s eternal plan for redemption. He wrote of hope for being brought into fellowship with God. He wrote of grace as the basis for our redemption. He also felt the need to remind the Ephesians that not only were they accepted on the basis of God’s love and grace, but that God offers the same acceptance to all, without distinctions.
The believers in Ephesus were themselves outsiders to the gospel, especially as far as the Jews were concerned. Paul had made ministry among these outsiders the priority of his ministry. He had made it a standard that when he entered a new town he would seek out the Jewish immigrants there. As soon as the Jews pushed him out of the synagogue, however, he would refocus his ministry among the rest of the outsiders, the Gentile community. This tactic was not due to any value judgment, but to a practical need for leaders within the believing community with bac ...
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