11So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” — a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands — 12remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.
The terrorist attacks in Paris, the ongoing conflict with ISIS, the tension in the Korean peninsula, the never-ending violence in Africa, the hatred in the Middle East -- all these remind us that we live in a divided, conflicted world. Sometimes the division occurs because of religion; other times, nationalities or ethnic identities are to be blamed; still other times, the disharmony is due to different political allegiances and histories.
War, conflict, hatred among different groups were never God's created intention. God's original intention was humanity unified and living in harmony and peace.
But as the result of the Fall, humanity living in harmonious relationship became a pipe dream, as delusional and hallucinatory as any drug induced fantasy.
Yet, this unrealistic hope of humanity in unity -- the idea, at least -- is still something we can think about. Our ability to conceive of humanity-in-peaceful-relationship implicitly invites the question whether this idea or conception can become a reality.
The hard-to-believe biblical answer to this question is, Not only is humanity-in-harmony possible but the peace and harmony among different people groups have become an actuality through Jesus Christ.
We usually conceive of salvation in terms of our relationship to God (vertical dimension) but salvation in Christ includes our relationship with others (horizontal dimension). This horizontal dimension of salvation is underscored in Ephesians 2:11-22. The barrier between sinners and a holy God has been overcome by the Cross of Christ; the barrier between Jews and Gentiles (and among other groups) has been overcome by Christ as well.
This actuality of human harmony has not completely been fulfilled as we know (hence, the persistence of conflict). Nevertheless, this actuality has begun. Followers of Jesus at the time of the writing of Ephesians experienced mutual reconciliation through Jesus. Jews and Gentiles reconciled in Jesus' name. And different peoples around the world are experiencing reconciliation as we speak (or read). Again, not in its completeness, but in degrees. Forgiveness is asked for; forgiveness is offered. Enemies become friends. Strangers become family. Not fully perhaps. But steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation are experienced and observed.
One day it will be impossible to observe the conflict and disharmony that we see among different groups today. It will be impossible because the Prince of Peace will finally and fully reign. In that awesome day, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). The unity and harmony among humans will come about because they will share one commonality: the worship of Christ, the Son of God.
Let's pray: Father God, we pray for all those areas in our present world that are undergoing conflict. We speak Shalom over these regions and people groups. We pray for the knowledge of God in Christ to prevail. We know that the only lasting harmony is through your Son, Jesus Christ. Strengthen the believers in these areas, even though they are persecuted, to be bearers of peace, witnesses of the new humanity that's being formed in Christ. In Jesus' name, Amen.