By Van Richmond
Pastor, New Life Church, Nashville
Focal Passage: Ephesians 2:17-22
Nobel Peace Prize winner and theologian Albert Schweitzer once astutely noted, “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.” While it seems difficult to imagine anyone could possibly feel isolated on a planet inhabited by over seven billion people, the reality is the esteemed Schweitzer’s observation is as accurate today as during his lifetime. What could be missing that would be so important?
Deep, meaningful connections. In Genesis 2:18, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” The need for relationships left the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and endures yet today. People embark upon multiple journeys in the never-ending effort to connect. They might seek others with similar hobbies, goals, or careers. Others might join a church or perform volunteer duties. Individuals even join dating websites in hopes of discovering the love of their life. “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”
While English poet John Donne wrote in Meditation XVII that “No man is an island,” many relationship-starved people feel as though they have been exiled to a deserted, faraway island. Mankind faced that sentence until Jesus offered renewed hope. In Ephesians 2, Paul describes heaven’s help in building a bridge over the chasm we experience as “separation.” In verse 17 Paul describes how Christ had preached peace to both Jews and Gentiles so they could be reconciled to God. The word “reconcile” means to change from enmity to friendship, to bring together, to restore. To reconcile is to reestablish the connection. –
“Tony” was dying of AIDS, the sad consequence of his former homosexual lifestyle in California. Claiming Christ as his Savior had broken the chains and freed him from the way of life, but not the death sentence he carried. Going home again was necessary before journeying to his eternal home.
“Tony” told Greg Cox, the leader of the AIDS care ministry team at his Nashville church, about the trip. He took the road home to New York to see his parents one last time and attempted to restore their broken relationship. “They kicked me out,” he softly said. Greg kindly asked, “Couldn’t they forgive you for having been homosexual?” “Oh, it wasn’t that,” Tony replied. “They accepted that years ago.” Somewhat puzzled, Greg asked. “Then why did they kick you out?”
“They kicked me out because they couldn’t accept that I am a Christian.”
Faith was the divisive wedge between Tony and his parents. Sin was the disruptive force that broke the connection and kept mankind distanced from God. Jesus, though, came of His own free love to announce peace personally to the apostles (Luke 24:36, John 20:19, 21, 26) and through them to others, including the world outside God’s chosen people.
“Access” is the most significant word contained in verse 18. For someone who is deathly ill, access to high-quality health care is essential. For the spiritually ill, Jesus established a connection that granted access to God for Gentiles and Jews alike. Nationality and family membership ceased to be determining factors that granted or denied admittance to the Father.
Maxie Dunnam described how now, in his hometown of Richton, Miss., every day at noon elderly people with limited income come together for a hot nourishing lunch provided by federal funding. Their time is spent together singing, playing games, craft-making, and even worshiping. Dunnam noted, “There are black and white people in that daily gathering, which would have been unheard of even 10 years ago. But the barriers have finally come down. Blacks and whites are no longer forcefully separated in Mississippi.”
This is the change Christ brings through the connection only He can offer, the change spoken of in verse 21: “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” He is the last “Adam,” creating a new humanity of which He is the head.
Divisions of all sorts must pass away with the entry of Christ into our lives. Through Christ we can rewrite and shorten Schweitzer’s statement to read, “We are all so much together!”