The hostility between us

But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us …. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:13-14, 17-18)

At a recent Commission on Ministry meeting in my diocese, we talked about the importance of reconciliation as a key element in any definition of Christian ministry.

Our Book of Common Prayer, in the Catechism, has this to say (BCP 855):

Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Q. What is the ministry of the laity?
A. The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.

“To restore all people to unity … to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation.”

The hostility between us puts the lie to our name of “Christian.” Where we allow hostility to grow, or worse, promote it by our words and actions, we are not “bearing witness” to Christ.

It’s important, especially in this age of social media, not to confuse disagreement with hostility. Breaking down the hostility between us does not mean squelching disagreement — but it is important to be clear when we do disagree that we still honor the other person.

Reconciliation is hard work, but the heavy lifting has already been done. Jesus has broken down the dividing wall; it’s up to us not to keep putting the bricks back where they came from.

Instead, as Paul goes on to say, we are to place those bricks next to “Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God” (Eph. 2:20-22).

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