Who Moved the Fence?

During excavations of Jerusalem in 1871, two archaeologists discovered what is known as the Soreg Inscription. Written in Greek, the sign warns non-Jews to keep out of the temple area. It states: “No foreigner is to enter the barriers surrounding the sanctuary. He who is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.” This was the heritage of the Gentiles to whom Paul was writing in Ephesus: held in contempt by the Jews and cut off from the life of God. The story is told of a Gentile woman who wanted to become a Jew so she went to the Rabbi to confess her sin and ask to convert. “Rabbi Eleazer,” she said, “bring me near.” The Rabbi shut the door in her face. What Rabbi Eleazer did not do, Rabbi Jesus did- through his own sacrificial death, he made a way for the Gentile as well as a Jew to be brought near to God and to be placed in relationship with Him by grace through faith.  Eph. 2:13, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Paul went on to tell his readers that God’s ultimate purpose in doing this “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.” Paul moved from abolition of the old (hostility) to the creation of the new (one new man- a single humanity). What was he talking about? THE CHURCH! This is the new reality of God; a new creation where old enemies first come into a reconciled relationship with God through Jesus Christ and then they come into a reconciled relationship with each other. While the Church may be composed of people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, yet they have the same DNA. It means that my cultural or racial identity is not as important as my identity in Christ. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26, 27). There is so much violence that we see in our world today due to racial alienation and tribal warfare. The Scripture tells us that only Jesus Christ can bring reconciliation between hostile groups; not through mediation or the giving of economic aid if groups would only behave, but by changing the hearts of the enemy and making the two, one in the Church. William Barclay tells the story of an American military unit in France during WW2 who brought the body of a dead comrade to be buried in a church cemetery. The priest asked the soldiers if their comrade had been baptized into the faith. They said they did not know. The priest told them sadly that he could not allow him to be buried inside the cemetery. The soldiers sadly buried the body just outside the cemetery fence. The next day, before they left they stopped by to visit the grave and they couldn’t find it. They were baffled and were about to leave when the priest came out and told them his heart had been so troubled by his initial refusal that early in the morning he had gotten out of bed and moved the fence so that the soldier was now in the cemetery. Rules and regulations put up the fence- love moved it. Religion, race, and culture separate; Christ brings us near.

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