(I gave this talk on a day the preacher spoke about Christians being brothers.)
In our culture there is a lot of emphasis on race and ethnic origins. Even when you fill out some form which is totally unrelated, they ask you what race you belong to. All too often people use the politics of race to divide and seek power for themselves. Instead of emphasizing what we all have in common, they use race to stir up division and dissension.
Others use the politics of envy to stir up ill-feeling. As a result, to paraphrase what the Apostle Paul wrote in Titus 3:3, people live in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
All this is nothing new. No matter what time period you look at people have found reasons not to get along with others who are different than themselves. Fighting and war have been one of the constants of human history.
As bad as the divisions between people are, they are only a reflection of the far greater estrangement there is between mankind and God. Instead of doing what He asked, we insisted on doing things our own way. We thought we knew better than He. The end result is that we separated ourselves from our Holy God.
God could have left things that way. He could have said, “You made your bed, now you get to lie in it.” But He didn’t do that. He loves us and wants the estrangement to end.
Since we are incapable of making things right, God did for us what we can’t do for ourselves. One of the purposes of Jesus’ coming into our world was to pay our debt – the debt we owe God and can never repay.
But there was another reason for Jesus’ coming. It was not only to heal the estrangement between us and God, it was also to heal the estrangement between peoples and races. In Ephesians 2:13-19 the Apostle Paul wrote, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,” (NIV)
Throughout history there have been all kinds of peace conferences to try to resolve disputes. But it seems that no sooner than one conflict is resolved, another breaks out. As Scripture says, we don’t know the way of peace (see Romans 3:17).
The reason the peace conferences fail is that they are depending on the wrong things to bring peace about. Paul points out in the passage we read that it is only through Jesus’ blood that we can be reconciled to each other. While making it possible for us to become reconciled to God, Jesus also broke down the barriers which separate us from each other.
In Christ we all belong to God’s household. We are brothers instead of aliens and foreigners to each other. We are family.
Sometimes we forget who and what we are and need to be reminded of it. That’s one of the reasons we gather each week – to remember who we are, that we’re in the same family and that family sticks together. Family works problems out instead of letting problems divide and separate. We gather to remember that in Christ we are all one.
Each week we eat the bread to remind us that Christ’s body was broken to make us whole. We drink the juice to remind us that Jesus’ blood destroyed the things which separate us both from God and from one another.