Opposites Attract

Outsiders. Insiders.

Members. Non-members.

People of color. White people.

Progressives. Conservatives.

Men. Women.

Clergy. Laity.

How easy it is to draw up opposites. The minute you read these pairs of words, you unconsciously found your place. We can’t help ourselves. Culture, practice, family affiliation, and society all work together to help us understand who we are…and who we aren’t.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the issue is circumcision verses uncircumcision. Either you were or you weren’t. Females were simply lumped in with their male family members. If you were circumcised, you were a Jew. If you weren’t, you were a gentile.

One group gets in, one group stays out. But then Jesus came, and all the ideas about opposites were obliterated:

Ephesians 2 (The Message)

16-18 Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.

This teaching was revolutionary. The centuries-long practice of maintaining strict distances between opposing groups was suddenly gone, and a new paradigm began to take hold. No one is a stranger or an outsider in Jesus’ world. Everyone belongs here, and this place was designed and built by God himself:

19-22 That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together.

With Christ as our cornerstone, we will hold all of these parts together in a holy temple.

We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

We see it taking shape day after day….or do we?

Insiders. Outsiders

Non-members. Members.

White people. People of color.

Conservatives. Progressives.

Men. Women.

Laity. Clergy.

We still have a long way to go, haven’t we?

God is Quite at Home by Michelle Robertson

How God Sees It

I have a vision condition called mono-vision. One eye is sighted to see distance while the other is sighted to see close-up. My optometrist prescribed contact lenses of different strengths to help my brain learn to focus in order for an image to be clear, regardless if it is near or far away. It is strange in the beginning, but in a short time your brain can actually learn how to instantly chose which lens to use to see the object. The vision in the dominant eye is corrected for distance while the other is left somewhat nearsighted for close vision, and the brain takes over.

In the Bible, we encounter all kinds of “visions” that come to people in different ways. Prophets had visions that were intended to correct the community, like the vision of dry bones that Ezekiel saw. Joseph and Daniel had visions that came through dreams, warning them about dangers and conflicts that were coming. The entire book of Revelation is John of Patmos’ vision of the new heaven and the new earth. God spoke though visions in order to reveal plans to those who would listen. Biblical visions are a way for us to explore how God sees things.

In this passage from Ephesians, Paul described how God sees the activity of Christ on the cross and what that means for us. We were brought to life while we were dead in sin because of God’s great love for his creation.

It is a vision of pure, unconditional grace:

Ephesians 2 (Common English Bible)

4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace!

The vision continued as Paul saw us raised up in the heavens with Jesus. He described our destiny in this letter…we are destined to rise up with Christ because God is so good and God’s grace is so great.

 And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

Isn’t this amazing? God has plans to seat you in heaven. That is God’s vision for your future!

Can you see it? Are you prepared? Or do you need to take your eyes off whatever is distracting you first and focus on your relationship with Jesus?

What are you looking at right now?

Wherever this scripture finds you today, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Jeremiah wrote that God has plans for you. These plans are to prosper you, not harm you. God plans to give you a future with hope! (Jeremiah 29:11) Focus on this and make it your own vision. Know that because of the resurrection, your place in the heavens is set. You’ve been saved by God’s grace!

That’s how God sees it.

Seated in the Heavens by Bev Mineo

The Power of Love

The power of guilt is something that can overtake an entire life and crush it with the strength of an oncoming avalanche. I saw this firsthand at a women’s retreat I attended many years ago. A participant sought me out after a very emotional worship experience where people were invited to give over their guilt, sins, burdens, and shame in an act of “dying moments.” The invitation was to process those life-long secrets and figuratively place them at the foot of the cross and “die to them” by letting them go.

This particular woman had about twenty years worth of crushing heaviness to lift up. She told me her story in gasps and sobs as we sat under a piano until 3 a.m. It included drug and alcohol abuse, criminal activity, adultery, an abortion she had never told anyone about, and the eventual loss of her marriage and children. It all came spilling out that night. She was dead inside.

Ephesians 2 (Common English Bible)

2 At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.

This is exactly where this woman was in her journey. She had lived a life of disobedience to God’s will. She spent her life doing things that “felt good” and subsequently lost her life to those things.

4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

And so here she was sitting with a strange pastor in the middle of the night and it all came out. Her greatest struggle was believing that with all that she had done, God would still be able to forgive her. She kept saying that her behavior was unforgivable. She was unredeemable. She was “unworthy.”

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

When she had finally exhausted herself, I calmly asked her if she thought that she was stronger or greater than Jesus. The question took her aback and she said no, of course not. I went on to explain that there is no sin greater than his activity on the cross and so it takes a certain kind of arrogance to think that OUR sin is the one so great and unforgivable that his death couldn’t obliterate it forever. To Jesus, she IS that worthy.

Otherwise the cross is a joke.

The next day, this woman woke up and knew for the first time in her life that she was forgiven, redeemed, and freed of her sins. She was a brand new creation in Christ. Hallelujah!

We are God’s accomplishment. Salvation is not something we possess on our own. It’s not something we did and now we can be proud of ourselves. And the opposite is true: there is nothing we’ve done that is so bad it can’t be forgiven. That’s the power of love.

You were created in Christ Jesus to do good things. Receive his forgiveness and go forth in your new life.

Cleansed by the Water by Jess Spiegelblatt