Lenten devotional, day 17

Today's Scripture Reading:  Ephesians 2:11-22


God’s Household, a Living Temple


Ephesians 2:1-10 deals with the vertical relationship between God and humanity.  Because of God’s love and grace, humanity is reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 2:11-22 addresses the horizontal relationship between Jew and Gentile Christians at the time.  It describes how Christ has broken down the barriers and brought unity between the two groups worshipping the same God.  Ephesians 2:19-22 builds on what Christ has done, inviting the Gentiles to claim their adoption into God’s household, and the verses suggest that they are all being built up as God’s actual living temple.

There are six words in 2:19-22 sharing the “oikos” root, which means “household.”   Also, the word “hagios” links the concepts of God’s people/God’s household with God’s temple (naos). Paul is using an extended, shifting metaphor here to convey his ideas.  The building and architecture metaphor is used multi-dimensionally to tie together social, political, and spiritual images of unity.

Paul’s use of “oikos” and its related words, are clearly drawing from the Greco-Roman social structure in his time.  The household was a “family” (paterfamilias) of people under one “father” or “lord” and was made up of the nuclear family, servants, slaves, and economic partners. These households were held together by common economic, social, and spiritual interests.  Furthermore, the household was the foundation of the political state in totality, uplifting Caesar as the great Father of the Empire.

Paul is subversively highlighting an alternative truth: God is the true Lord of the Household.  Security and identity flow from adoption in Him, not from institutions made by human hands.  Those who are displaced are no longer aliens.  The passage points to the idea that God has created a new humanity.  He has gathered to himself a new people to become a blessing to all nations.

God’s vision for humanity has not changed.  What He has done has been done since the beginning.  We are the ones who have lost vision.  The message in Ephesians 2:11-22 is that Christ has made a new way for God’s glory and presence to go out to all nations.  He is breaking down the walls, and swinging open the doors to the inner sanctuary.  A new humanity, made free through adoption into God’s family, will become the carriers of God’s presence.  We are His holy temple, and as we live out our identity as God’s people, we become a witness to His Glory to all people.

I think there is a challenge for our Christian communities and churches.  What are the ways we hinder people different from ourselves from drawing near to God?  If we tribalize based on preferences, or what gives us security and identity on a fleshly level, what kind of households will we end up building?  I think there’s a call here to be intentional about participating in Christ’s breaking down human barriers by way of stretching beyond our own comfort zones while pursuing cross-cultural relationships.  More of our churches and communities need to pursue multiethnicity and stretch across social classes.  Those in the dominant culture need to move out of the mentality of, “you need to come to us,” and realize that they too are being called to build a new culture which will take them out of their own.  Those who are minorities or in lesser social standing, need to receive God’s adoption and blessing with both hands and rise in confidence, voice, and authority.