Tearing down walls of hostility

The passage of scripture that serves as our text for today tells us that Jesus has “broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14). The context of this passage indicates that it was specifically talking about the dividing wall that separated the Jews from the Gentiles. That was indeed a significant barrier to peace in the lives of people in Jesus’ day. The Jews felt hostile toward the Gentiles who were seen as pagan or non-religious. They didn’t keep the law, or the commandments, or the rituals and traditions of Judaism. The Gentiles felt hostile toward the Jews who acted differently and thought of themselves as God’s special people. They were probably looked upon as spiritual snobs.

In a world in which religion is so often used to divide people, Jesus came to bring people together. Much to the chagrin of his Jewish brothers and sisters, he welcomed the children and ate with tax collectors and sinners. He allowed a sinful woman to anoint his feet with oil, and touched the decaying skin of lepers. In fact, the first time Jesus announced his true identity as the Messiah, it was to a Samaritan woman (a foreigner) who had a bad reputation for her sexual promiscuity.

Righteous Jews of Jesus’ day avoided such people like the plague, and I am afraid that after 2000 years very little has changed. Many religious people today still use their religion to “keep people out.” A prominent Baptist pastor said not long ago, “I like fences that keep others out….fences define who you are.” It is no wonder that the number of people claiming to be Christian in our nation is decreasing exponentially. Many non-religious and formerly religious folks look at the venomous hatred spouted by those who claim to follow Jesus and want nothing to do with it.

I much prefer the way of Christ who came to destroy the barriers that separate any person from God and from God’s people. And I am glad that Community Baptist Church is the kind of church that accepts all who come seeking fellowship. May we truly follow in the ways of Christ who turned no one away.

Tim Hobbs, Pastor

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