Reconciliation is hard. Relationships are messy. Restoration sometimes feels impossible. To be honest, some parts of Christ's reconciliation in his church will not be fully experienced until we are with Christ in glory. The fact that sin remains in our mortal bodies means that there will always be more need to fight for unity.
However, if Ephesians 2:11-22 teaches us anything about reconciliation, it's that reconciliation is possible. In fact, it's not just possible: it has already been given to us as a gift. Reconciliation is not merely available to Christ's church, it is already real in Christ's church. Jesus has torn down the dividing wall of hostility, and the only question that remains is this: will we humble ourselves, allowing our hearts to be redefined by his work and our lives to be reoriented to his vision for his church?
In this section of Ephesians that we studied this past Sunday, we looked a number of word pictures that communicate God's vision for his church. He has called us not only to a new individual identity, but to a new corporate identity. It's important that we slow down and think carefully about each of these pictures of our corporate identity so we can fully embrace our place in Christ's church and the church's place in our lives. Consider each of these pictures and how they would radically reorient the way you live as a part of Christ's church:
We are Citizens Together in a New Kingdom (Eph. 2:19a) - Paul says we are "fellow citizens with the saints" whereas at one time we were "alienated from the commonwealth of Israel" (v. 12). The picture of a Kingdom is all about authority and submission. When we are in Christ, we come under his authority as King. Our primary citizenship and allegiance is in heaven, not a kingdom of this earth. We are ambassadors for this new kingdom in a hostile world. We enjoy the rights and privileges of the kingdom to which we truly belong, but will find ourselves isolated from the rights and privileges granted by the kingdoms of this world according to their own value systems.
We are Members Together in a New Family (Eph. 2:19b) - Paul says we are "members of the household of God." The picture of family emphasizes the love that binds the church together. There is no church where there is no love, because God has first loved us, made us his children, and therefore brought us together as brothers and sisters. The church isn't just like a family, it is a family. We care for one another. We are devoted to one another. The bond between us is stronger than blood because it is the eternal love of God.
We are Building Blocks Together in a New Temple (Eph. 2:20-22) In the Old Testament, God made his dwelling place first in a physical tent, and then in a physical temple. This dwelling place was the centerpiece of the nation. Today, we are being built together into a holy temple in the Lord. He is the architect and master builder, and the church becomes his dwelling place when we order ourselves according to his design that is laid out in the New Testament (the apostles and prophets), making Jesus Christ the cornerstone of our foundation. Every block must be laid squarely on this foundation or the whole building will suffer.
We are Parts (organs) Together in a Body (2:15-16, 4:15-16) - Paul alludes to this picture in chapters 1 and 2, and then goes into further detail in chapter 4. The picture of a body is that Christ is the head, and we are growing up into him. This happens when it is fully equipped by gifted leaders (4:12, 16a) and "when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (4:16b). This means that your spiritual health, church involvement, and future growth is all vitally connected to the others in our church, and theirs to you. God has some things that he wants to do in you that will only come through another part of his body, and vice versa.
We are a Bride together of Christ (5:31-32) - This picture is slightly different because it emphasizes the whole without as much reference to the parts. We are not each individually the bride of Christ (that's a weird twisting of this picture if you ever hear it), but we are his bride as a whole church (globally and historically). This picture also relates to the picture of the church as Christ's body: just like a husband and wife are "one flesh," so too the church is "one flesh" with Christ, united to him by faith. The picture of the bride emphasizes union. This means we submit together to our groom, awaiting his coming eagerly, and we allow him to nourish us through the washing of water (baptism) and the word. As he does this, he also shows just how much he loves and cherishes us as his people, his prized possession.
The church isn't just one of these pictures: it's all of them. Each gives us another perspective into God's unimaginable vision for his church. Church membership is the outworking of each of these realities that Christ has accomplished for his church. How will you embrace your place in Christ's church this week, this month, and this year?