Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Read Ephesians 2:14. What was the “dividing wall of hostility” that Jesus removed? If Jesus has already done this through the cross, what impact should that have on us today?
- What is the new kind of family that Jesus created? How does the bond of this family in Christ overwhelm all of the other things that could potentially divide us from one another?
- Read John 17:23. How does this verse apply to the discussion we’ve been having?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
I want to introduce you to my friend, one mentor in my life named Franklin Scott. You see a picture of him here standing next to the arches at the University of Georgia. Franklin was a campus minister at the University of Georgia when I kind of came alive in Christ. This guy really invested in me. He made a difference in my life. He helped to teach me, helped to disciple me. Just a few years ago, I actually emailed him because I found out just recently that he was retiring from what he was doing. A few years prior to his retirement, I emailed him, and I said, "Hey, Franklin. Do you remember what you said to me before I graduated?" He emailed me back, and he did remember.
You know, I didn't know. It's been a number of years. He's like, "Yeah. I tell that story all the time to people." I was like, "Oh. That's super cool." What he said to me was this. He knew that God had called me to preach and to lead and to do all that kind of stuff. Of course, at the time, when I was hanging out with him, I was 20, 21, 22 during that age range. He told me, he said, "Jerry, you are going to have the opportunity to pastor and lead a number of different types of people." He said to me, he said, "White, black, brown, that's who you're going to lead." Now, the guy's Baptist, so this wasn't exactly like a word of prophecy from a charismatic. He was just saying, "I really sense that God is going to allow you to do that."
Well, part of the reason for that is because Franklin had invested in me and given me a sense for looking at the world a little bit differently and helping me to see and appreciate people in terms of where they came from. Now, a number of years later, when I was serving a church in Florida, we had 30 first generation nationalities in our church. That was like normal to us. Then, when I got to Buffalo, I thought to myself, "Franklin's crazy," because when I got here in 2002 to this church, this was one of the whitest places I'd ever been in my life. I thought to myself, "Did the snow bleach everyone? Is that what happened?" I wasn't used to it. It was kind of new for me. Then, we've watched as that has changed through the years in all the right ways.
Now, it's interesting because what Franklin put into my heart was helping me to recognize and appreciate people that come from all different kinds of backgrounds. That helped me because a few years after I graduated, this was in the 90s, a few years after I graduated, I was working on staff at another church. I had been invited to come and speak up in North Georgia. It doesn't matter the town or the church, but I had come up there to speak. I agreed to do that. They asked me to come for, I don't know, it was a three-day kind of deal. I was going to be speaking in the church each night, but I was also going to be speaking in schools. I would do that as well. It was kind of wild because I had an open door, and I got to go into the schools. I wasn't preaching in the schools, but I was talking about at-risk behaviors and athletics and character and all of those kinds of things.
Then, we were inviting all of those students to the last night that I was going to be speaking at the church. They did the whole give you pizza, and you guys come. Then, I'll get to preach in that context. It was cool. I had fun. I was preaching at the church each night. I even changed the Bible that I was using because I was preaching at the time out of a New King James. That wasn't good enough. I had to go back to the Old King James. It's like, "Okay. I can do that. Old King Jimmy is a friend of mine. I will be glad to open that up and preach out of that for you. If you need me to do that, no problem." I went to all the schools. It really resonated, got to speak to all the sports teams in a lot of these schools. It was super cool. They were very gracious to kind of receive me.
Then, that night, when we were doing a gathering for all of them, a ton of them came. We didn't quite know how many were going to show up, but a ton of these students came. It wasn't just students, but the whole building was packed. They said at the time in this town that it was the largest church youth gathering that their town had ever seen. Whole entire church was packed. There were people outside. It was really extraordinary. I just preached the gospel. I told people about Jesus and how much he loved them and how he could forgive them and how he could change them. Then, I gave an invitation for people to come and receive Jesus Christ, and tons of them did. Many of them were African American football players that came. They were coming down the aisle, and they were crying. I was like, "This is incredible."
The pastor says to me, he's like, "This is unbelievable, all these people that have responded to Christ." I'm like, "I know. This is incredible." He says to me, "I hope that they can find a church home." I said, "They have. Here they are. They came here." He says, "Oh, no. My deacons would never allow that." I said to him, I said, "Respectfully, sir, you need new deacons. You need new ones because that..." Can we agree on something here? Can we agree that if the church of Jesus is racist, the world is in trouble? Now, you see, the church is actually meant to be like a movie trailer. What we're doing is we're demonstrating to the world the kingdom that is among us and the kingdom that is coming.
People are looking at the church, and they're getting a preview of coming attractions so to speak. They ought to be able to see that division based on race is not something that they see in the local congregation because that's not what the kingdom looks like. In fact, if you fast forward all the way to the end of the story in the book of Revelation, you see every tongue and every tribe and every nation together worshiping the King. You see, this is what we need to embrace here. Some of us might say, "Well, Jerry, this stuff goes without saying." That's the problem. It's gone without saying too long. We actually have to say this. Now, it's not a political rally.
I'm not running for anything. Here's the thing. Here's what I need you to remember. Some of us, when we hear a message, we're like, "Okay, man. Are you talking about racism?" Actually, I'm going to talk about the Bible, which is what I do. Right? I'm not running for anybody's office. I'm not in bed with any party or politician. That's not my deal. I want to teach the word. However that falls, let it fall, man. Just let it fall. Let it say to us what it needs to say to us because sometimes it has to clean some stuff up and clear some stuff out. Sometimes it affirms and encourage. Let's just the word do what the word does by the power of the Spirit in our lives.
I know what some could potentially be thinking, not that any of you would, but potentially some could be thinking, "You know, Jerry, I really like it when you stand up for the unborn," and we've done that. We talk about how the word of God values life and all those kinds of things. "I really love that. I really like it when you mention about how we should all be free to worship and kind of religious liberty and those kinds of things. Man, I really like that. I really like it when you honor our service men and women even on a day like today when we acknowledge their service to our country and how we've honored them and we have. Those kinds of things, I really love that. Man, don't you think talking about race is a little too political?" No, I think it's Biblical. In fact, that's what we're going to learn today. All I'm doing is teaching through Ephesians. That's what I'm doing.
I'm going to kind of conclude my time today in this book, but all I've been doing is just walking, quite literally, through every verse in chapter one and chapter two. That's what I'm doing. What we find when we get to chapter two is basically this. Midway through chapter two, Paul basically tells his own people not to be racist. You're going, "What? That's in the Bible?" Yeah, it's in the Bible. Paul's talking to Jewish Christians, and he's talking to Gentile Christians. He's basically helping them to understand even though there was this incredible racial hostility between Jews and Gentiles, Gentiles means non-Jewish people, there was this incredible racial hostility. Paul is basically saying to them, "I don't want you, who are Jewish Christians, to be racist because this is a whole new deal now in Christ. Everything is brand new."
That's what he talks about. Now, there are times where Paul actually, in other of his letters like in Romans chapter nine, 10, and 11, he actually addresses Gentile Christians and corrects them and says, "Hey, don't you be arrogant. Don't you be conceited like you started this deal. You're grafted into this olive tree. That's the root. You're the branch. You got grafted in, so don't get all high and mighty because you're a Gentile Christian. You better back up and check yourself." You got to do that on occasion. That's exactly what he does in some letters, but in this one, in Ephesians, he actually is slightly correcting the Jewish Christians, but he's encouraging the Gentile Christians. Why is that? Because what we have to realize is that even though the Messiah came through the Jews, he's not owned by them.
You see, Jesus was Israel's fulfilled hope, but he is also the world's true Lord. That means that anyone, regardless of their background, can be reconciled to the Father through Jesus Christ. This is what Paul is getting at in Ephesians chapter two in the second half of the chapter. After talking in the first part of the chapter about what we've been rescued from and the grace that has been extended to us in Christ and how now we've got this brand new, as he talked about in chapter one and chapter two, we've got this brand new position, this exalted position that only comes by the grace of God, now Paul actually turns his light and starts to shine it on some relational issues that happen within the body of Christ.
Listen to what he says beginning in verse number 11 of Ephesians chapter two. He says, "Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called 'uncircumcised' by those who call themselves 'the circumcision' (which is done in the body by human hands), remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ." You see, what Paul does when he begins talking about this is he says, "Let's just do away with the intimidation of labels and name calling." He said, "I know that some of you Gentile Christians, you're a little intimidated because these Jewish Christians, they call themself the circumcision and they call you the uncircumcised."
That's actually a demeaning category because for the Jews calling themselves the circumcision was basically saying, "We are the covenant people. We have all the stuff. God chose us. God made the covenants with us. We've got the promise. We're the citizens of the kingdom of God. You are the uncircumcised. You're outside of the covenant. You're all of those things." Paul basically says, "Let's do away with the name calling and the labeling. I don't want you to be intimidated about that, but, Gentile Christians, but I want you to remember where you came from because here's what's true of you." He actually walks through a number of different things. He says, "You were separate from the Messiah. You were excluded from citizenship in Israel. You were foreigners to the covenants of the promise. You were without hope. You were without God."
That word without God there in the Greek language is atheos. It's where we get our word atheist, without God. "You were all of those things," Paul says, "so I don't want you to forget that," because he wants to remind them that they were considered the far away. He said, "You who were far away." He's referring to Gentile Christians. The Jewish Christians were the ones who are near. The Gentile Christians were the ones who are far away. That's a category. It probably borrows its language from Isaiah 57, but it's a category that both Peter and Paul used when talking about the Gentiles as well. In fact, when Peter was preaching his sermon at Pentecost, you remember that, right, when the Holy Spirit came and Peter got up and was preaching to all of these people, he was preaching to Jews, now, Jews that had come from a number of different places and Jews who spoke a number of different languages, but he was preaching to Jews predominantly.
In that message, I want you to note what he said. Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, for all whom the Lord our God will call." He was referring there not only to the Jews and to the children of these Jews potentially being transformed by the gospel but also those who were far away, those who were far off, referring to the Gentiles. In fact, when Paul got his call from the Lord Jesus, listen to what is recorded in Acts chapter 22. Paul says, "Then the Lord said to me, 'Go. I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'"
See, the Gentiles were noted as a people who were far away from the covenants, but they were also geographically far away because this would be about the gospel going into all of Asia Minor, not just staying located in Jerusalem or in the nation of Israel. Here's the beautiful thing. What Paul is saying here is that, "The Gentiles, remember where you came from, but remember what Jesus did. Those of you who were far away, you've now been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ." That's an encouraging thing for us to remember because those of us that make us this room, that are listening to my voice, that are on any of our campuses, the lion's share, the vast, overwhelming majority of people are not Jewish in heritage. You're Gentile. This is really good news for you because what this means is those of us who are really far away have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on in Ephesians chapter two, and here's what he says. He says, "For Jesus, he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations." What we see here in this text is that Paul tells us, he says, "Look, Jesus is our peace. He himself is our peace. What has he done? He has destroyed the walls of hostility." Now, when he talks about this peace, when Paul refers to the peace, it's a two-pronged peace. I don't want you to miss this. It's a two-pronged peace. It means two different things. He's saying that in Jesus we can have peace with God because all of us, as he said in Ephesians chapter two in the beginning part, we were enemies of God. We were deserving of the wrath of God.
We had sinned and come short of the glory of God, but what God has done in Christ is he has had mercy on us, and he has shown us grace so that God could deal with his own justice in his perfect Son instead of having to deal with us in that way. By faith in Jesus through his death and resurrection, we can now be at peace with God instead of being rebels against the throne of the King. This is really good news, but that also means that we're not only at peace with God where Jesus himself is our peace, but we can also be at peace with one another. You see, it's two-pronged. It's vertical in that we have peace with God, and it's also horizontal in that we can be at peace with one another. This is important for us to understand. Why is it that we can have that peace? Because of what Jesus has done. What has Jesus done? He has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.
Pause here for a moment. What is this barrier? What is this dividing wall of hostility that Paul is referring to? I think that he's referring to the temple itself. Now, I'll tell you why in just a moment because Paul doesn't say outright what this dividing wall of hostility is, but I'm going to tell you why I think that from the scripture itself. Why do I think that? Because if you know anything about the temple, you might know that there were places that Gentiles could go and that they could not go. In other words, there was a place, a wall, kind of a balustrade, where there was a sign that was put up by the Jewish people that basically said, "You can't go past here."
Those signs are not things that we made up. Those signs are things that archeologists have actually found. They've found those, one that was basically fully put together, it was still there, and then another one that was kind of like a half big kind of cut out of stone, chiseled out of stone. It was all written in Greek. In fact, here's a picture of it. It's right here. This one is kept in Rome, in a particular museum there in Rome. Don't be confused. Down here, this is Italian. Don't be confused. This is Greek. Some of you are going, "That just looks Greek to me." There's a reason that phrase started. You're going, "It looks Greek to me." Well, this is all capital Greek that you're looking at here.
Now, I'm going to translate this directly in terms of word for word, but I'm going to paraphrase this for you. Here's what it says. Remember, this was put up on the wall in a certain place in the temple campus or temple compound area. It basically said this, and it was written in Greek so that those Gentiles would be able to read it, "Hey, if you're a Gentile," I'm paraphrasing. "Hey, if you're a Gentile and you come past this point, don't be surprised when we kill you." You're going, "Is that really what it said?" That's really what it said. It said it in a little kind of more formal language, but basically what this said is, "Hey, if you're a Gentile, do not come past here. Do not pass go, hard stop, because if you do, don't be surprised that you're going to die." How's that for hostility? Fair enough?
I'm sure that some of you guys have and gals, in your places maybe if you live in a house, some of you may have fences around your yard. How many of you have fences around your yard? Just raise your hand. Don't be scared. You have fences around your yard. How many of you have a sign on the fence around your yard that says, "If you come in here, don't be surprised. I'm going to kill you." Some of you are going, "Yeah. I've got one of those." There's a couple of you. I got it. Generally speaking, that's maybe a little over the top, that's a little hostile, but that's what was going on in the temple. Even if the Jews thought they were doing the right thing and they were trying to protect the sanctity of God and all of those kinds of things, there's this sign. It's there. It's this dividing wall that is hostile to those that are not like the Jews.
Now, in Jesus' death, what he did through the cross is Paul says he obliterated the barrier, the diving wall of hostility. In other words, that's not there anymore because of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross. It's no longer about Jew and Gentile. It's about being in Christ. He's destroyed that. He's also, with his death on the cross, taken those other pieces of Jewish life that were used to intimidate or to make others feel inferior, and he said, "I'm setting those aside as well." You know all the laws about what you can and can't eat and Gentiles are looked at as like, "What? You're eating pork sandwich. No to the pig. No. You're inferior." He said that's all set aside.
What about all the special days that they observed? No, that's set aside. Those were a shadow of the things to come. The reality is Christ the Bible says. Paul says that in Colossians. What about the circumcision? No, no more name calling. No more any of that. This is now about being in Christ. He is who we are all about. All of that has been dismantled because of what Jesus Christ has done. Now, why do I say that I think it was this temple wall that was in Paul's mind? Well, when you finish reading Ephesians two, you get to Ephesians three. In Ephesians three verse one, here's what you learn, "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles." He notes that he's in prison.
How did Paul get in prison? Well, it was a chain of events. Kind of one thing led to another thing led to another thing, but do you know how it started, where Paul ended up in prison writing about the Ephesians? Do you know where that began? Look back in Acts chapter number 21. Here's what it says. It says, "When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and they seized Paul, shouting, 'Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.' (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and they assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.)"
You've got to know that this is going on in Paul's mind. He's writing a letter to the Ephesians, and there has been a point in time where he has actually been accused and jailed because they said, "Hey, you brought Trophimus the Ephesian, and you brought him places in the temple where he's not supposed to be." Now, what we don't know is whether Paul did that or did not do that. We don't have evidence in the actual text of scripture that says that he did or didn't do that, but that's what he was accused of doing. I can't help but believe that this is what was in his mind when he was writing to the church at Ephesus because he's trying to help everyone understand that, in Christ, everyone has the same opportunity. In Christ, everyone has the same access to the Father, and it is through Jesus. It's not based on national heritage. It's not based on race. It's not based on ethnic identity. It is only based on Jesus.
This is what Paul is teaching. He goes on to say this in verse number 15. He says, "His purpose," God's purpose, "was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in 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," the Gentiles, "and peace to those who were near," the Jews. "For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." You see, what he's talking about here is that the purpose of God in Christ is that God has always desired and always chosen for himself a people. We learned that as we've been studying through the book of Ephesians. He says he wants this people not to be known and made up by just being Jew and Gentile.
He says, "You know what? You've got these humans that are Jews. You've got these humans that are Gentiles, but here's what I want. In my people, those who put their faith in Christ, once you become a person in Christ, you are a new kind of humanity." That's what he says, "I'm creating a new kind of humanity, no longer based on national heritage, no longer based on race or ethnicity." It's no wonder that the early church fathers actually referred to believers in Christ as the third race. Paul talked about Jew. Paul talked about Gentile. Then, Paul talked about those that are in Christ as a new kind of humanity, a third race so to speak. Now, I want you to understand what I'm saying and what I'm not saying here because I want you to understand what Paul is saying and what he's not saying. It's not here. This isn't implying that our national heritage or our natural race or ethnicity is unimportant.
That's not what he's implying. He's just saying it's not primary. It's secondary. In fact, when we are now in Jesus, what we figure out real quickly is this. We identify with Jesus more than we identify with our whiteness or our blackness or our brownness because we are now in Christ. Now, our whiteness or our blackness or our brownness does not go away. It remains and beautifully so, but it is not now the priority thing by which we are identified because once we are identified with Jesus, he is who defines our identity more than anything else about us. We are a new kind of humanity. Now, what you find out about this new kind of humanity is that it's a new kind of humanity that's built upon the peace that only Jesus can bring. In fact, if you look back in the text we were just looking at, kind of verses 14 and following, what you see is all of these ideas about peace.
Look, "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in 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." Did you catch that? Listen to this. Jesus is our peace, Jesus has made peace, and Jesus preaches peace. This is what it looks like to be part of the new humanity. Jesus himself is our peace because he is the one who has made peace for us with God and with everyone else. He has preached peace and will continue to preach peace through those of us who have been changed by the peace that he gives through his death and resurrection.
This has both a vertical and a horizontal way of looking at it, but this peace that we're talking about here, this peace isn't just the absence of chaos or the absence of conflict. You know, when you're a young mom and you've got 400 kids in the house, it's not 400. It's four. It feels like 400. Right? You've got all these kids in the house, and you just want a half day. All you're looking for is just a half day. You ask your spouse, or if you're a single parent, you just try and get a friend that can watch them or something. It's like, "I just want a half day." Why? Why do you want a half day? Because I just need some peace. Right? I just need some peace. By that, it means this. I just need an opportunity to be outside of the chaos and the conflict for a little while. By the way, that's completely legitimate. I get it. I understand. That's completely legitimate.
The peace that Paul is talking about here is not just the absence of conflict or just the absence of chaos. He's actually talking about the wholeness of relational harmony. That's what he's actually talking about. This peace is like a shalom, a wholeness in terms of our ability to be related to one another and to ultimately love one another. You see, the only way that that really becomes real in the body of Christ is when we understand and we live in grace. When we understand what God has done for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ still died for us, that we're undeserving and what God has done for us is overwhelming for us to think about, that he's been so gracious to us. When we understand grace, everything changes. Listen carefully. I like what Dr. Anderson said. He said this. He said, "Paul preaches against racism and preaches for gracism."
In fact, Dr. Bird, Michael Bird, was commenting on this idea, and he said this. He said, "Gracism means extending favor to others irrespective of color, class, or culture." Yes, I know that gracism sounds cornier than a cornfield in Cornville, Iowa, but it rings true. Gracism means that nobody will ever be asked to sit in the back of the church bus. Gracism means that we can never say equal but separate. Gracism means that we deliberately desire to have multiethnic and interracial fellowships. Gracism means that we sinners, who have been reconciled to God, can now be agents of reconciliation with each other. I really like that idea. Paul preaches against the idea of racism and preaches for the idea of gracism, but then what Paul does after teaching us all of this, teaching the Ephesians and by extension us all of this, he actually concludes by giving us three pictures of what this new humanity actually looks like.
Notice what he says in the final verses here of chapter two. He says, "Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord." There are three pictures that he gives us there. I love all of them. There's one, though, that I want to hold off on because I think it's one that is relational. He first tells us that we're a new nation. You're fellow citizens now. You're not outside of the covenant people of God.
When you're in Christ, you're a part of the covenant people of God. All the promises and everything about that extends to you. In other words, he says this. In Christ, you've been given a new passport to a new nation. It's not a nation that's defined by geographical boundaries. It's a nation that's defined by Jesus himself. When we are in Christ, the boundaries of geography don't matter. The aspects of our national identity don't matter. The end of the day, our race and our ethnicity, that's not what gets us in. That's not what we put on our passport. It is only all of us, whatever our background, whatever our nationality, whatever our race or ethnicity, if we are in Christ, we have been given this new passport into this new nation called the kingdom of God. It's a beautiful picture. Right?
There's a second picture. He says this. He says you're a temple in the Lord. I want you to think about this. He's writing to encourage these Gentile Christians, the same ones that were not allowed to pass the dividing wall of hostility in the physical temple. He now says you are the temple. How stunning is that to a Gentile ear? I wasn't even allowed to go into the holy places of the temple and worship the Lord, and now you're saying, "No problem. You are the temple. It's not about a building where my presence is going to dwell. It's about the people of God made up of every race, every background, every tongue and tribe and nation. I'm going to dwell in them, and they are going to be my temple where my presence is manifest." A beautiful picture, a new nation, a new temple, but here's the one, a new family. He says you are now part of God's household. It's a new family.
Now, that makes really good sense in light of what we've been talking about. Right? You might want to jot this down because this is important truth. A new kind of humanity requires a new kind of family. You see, when Paul says that the two have become one and he has made a new kind of humanity out of those of us who are believers in Jesus, no longer defined by whether we're Jew or Gentile, but now we're this new kind of humanity because we are in Christ, but understand this. A new kind of humanity requires a new kind of family. See, the old way of looking at family just won't do because the old way of family is looking at it just based on biology. Just won't do anymore. In fact, when you look on people's social media around this time, there's lots of graduations, whether it's a son or a daughter or a cousin or a niece or a nephew or whatever.
You've got people that are graduating during this time. People are posting pictures. They're fantastic. That's great. It's a celebration. It's a wonderful thing. Sometimes here's the tag that you see on those, "Family is everything." First of all, family is not everything. Jesus is everything, but I understand what people are saying when they say that. Family is everything, but your definition in that point is, generally speaking, biological. Family is everything. You see, for those of us that are in Christ, we have a new family, a bigger family. It doesn't mean, by the way, that your biological family can't be in the spiritual family. We hope and pray that that's the case. Ultimately, what takes precedence is this new family. Why? Because we are a new kind of humanity not defined by our biology, not defined by our race or our ethnicity or our national identity. We are defined by Jesus. We are a new humanity in a new kind of family.
This truth has marked my life in a number of different ways in my journey of faith, but maybe one of the more recent times that this truth marked my life again was about four years ago. Next month, it will be four years because it was at that time that a 21-year-old young man, white young man who was an avowed racist and who said he wanted to start a race war, went into a church, Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He went in during a time where they were having a small prayer meeting. By the way, he was welcomed in. He sat with this small group of people through their Bible study and their time of prayer, and then he pulled out a gun. He executed nine people, nine black people, in order, in his mind, to incite a race war.
We all heard about it, and all you heard about on the news after that was this thing and rightly so. Then, you heard everybody saying, "We have to have a conversation on race," and rightly so. Some of those conversations that we were seeing on some of the opinion networks had an African American guest and a Caucasian guest, and they were talking about this idea and rightly so. I remember hearing more than once, maybe twice, over the course of the next couple of weeks, I heard an African American guest say to a Caucasian guest, he said, "I'm not trying to be offensive to you, but here's the truth. One of your people murdered nine of my people." When we are speaking purely in terms of race, that's absolutely true, but as I began to reflect as well as lamenting the racial hostility that was demonstrated in Charleston, I realized something that marked me.
That young man that came into that building murdered my people because these were believers in Jesus. Listen carefully. Listen. This is not me trying to act black. This is me trying to act like a Christian because these were brothers and sisters in Christ that this young man murdered. These were my people. Anyone who is in Christ, they are my people. Wherever they came from, whatever their background, they are my people. I've been to like 35 countries of the world. I have worshiped with my people all over the globe. I have been ministered to and taught and taught and ministered to my people all over the world because Paul is really serious about what changes when we understand the truth of the gospel. We have a new family because we are a new humanity.
Now, the family metaphor is powerful. Jesus has accomplished reconciliation for us with God when we put our faith in him and with others. He's accomplished that. He's destroyed the wall of hostility. We have to live into that truth. We have to lean into that truth because it's true that he's done it. We just have to now appropriate that truth in our everyday living. That's the hard part. Isn't it? How do I do that? I'm not an expert, won't claim to be, but I'm a learner and I'm a listener. I learned and listened from Jemar Tisby. Jemar's an African American author and scholar, really. I mean, he's got a Bachelor of Arts from Notre Dame and an M Div from Reformed Seminary. He's about finished with PhD at the University of Mississippi. He wrote a book called The Color of Compromise.
At the end, he talked about an arc to healing in the body of Christ racially. He used the word arc as an acronym. The first thing he talked about is that we have to have awareness. That's the A in ARC, awareness. In other words, what he was saying is this. You've got to understand why people other than you, and this goes in every direction, why people other than you feel the way they feel, think the way they think, act the way they act. Listen, I'm talking about the body of Christ right now. We need to have an awareness sometimes of where we came from, what things shaped us. Why do we react to certain things the way that we do? Why do we respond to certain things the way that we do?
We have to have an awareness, but how does that awareness actually come about? That's the R, through relationship. That's the only way it can come about. You realize, right, that most of the fear and misunderstanding that we have about people that are different than us in the body of Christ is because we don't know them. That's where it comes from. By the way, when we learn to act this out in the body of Christ, it becomes a nonevent outside of the body of Christ. Relationship, where we actually, listen to this, where we actually develop relationships that are strong enough that we build a strong enough bridge of relationship that truth can travel in both directions. That dignifies the relationship.
Then, he said this. He said commitment. In other words, the truth of what Paul taught is true. Wherever you came from, whatever your background, whatever it looks like, when we are in Christ, we are family, and family stays committed to one another. It's long haul. We may not always understand one another, but we press in. We don't run away. We may not always agree about everything, but we press in. We don't run away. We stand committed to our brothers and sisters in Christ even if they came from a different background, even if they don't look like us, talk like us, or act like us because so many times we just assume based on the stereotypes that we form and based on all the opinion talking heads that are paid to create chaos and division. We buy in hook, line, and sinker instead of actually knowing the human beings that have found their lives and their identities in Christ.
Instead of giving them a stereotype, let's get to know them, get to know me, so that we have an understanding of who we are. We can center our conversation on Jesus and what that means for how we live and how we do what we do. I think soon-to-be Dr. Tisby has it right. When we show an awareness and we develop that through a relationship, then there becomes a commitment. Then, all of a sudden, that's the movie trailer of the kingdom that everybody can see. See, the family of God is worth our effort, ladies and gentlemen. We've got to heed Paul's words. In Christ, we are a new humanity. As a new kind of humanity, it requires a new kind of family. I want that to fall deeply into our hearts.
What I want to do I want to do something that's a little more tactile for us, something that will help remind us of that truth, that we are a new family. I want you on this campus and on every campus, I want you to stand to your feet wherever you are. You're not dismissed at this point. I just want you to stand to your feet. I'm going to ask you to do something in just a moment. You say, "Is this a little bit corny?" Maybe. I don't care. I'm almost 50. Corny is like my deal now. Once you crest a certain age, corny is just where you live. I'm going to ask you in just a minute to lock arms with the person next to you, and you're going to cross aisles. You're going to come across the aisles. We're all going to lock it down because we're in the body, so do it. Everybody, lock it down. I've got people coming for me right now too. Come on in. Lock it down. You can do it.
It's not rocket science, folks. We've got a whole section in the back left looks like they're doing the hokey pokey. Lock it down. Now, look around. Look around. For those of us that are in Christ, these are our people, all of them. For those that are not in Christ, look around. If you're not Christ, we welcome you to this family. We'd love to have you in it. We'd love you to turn from trusting yourself and put your trust in Jesus because he alone can save. After the last worship gathering, a man stopped me outside who's from Liberia, said, "I've been here for a few years." He said, "When we locked arms," he said, "I just started crying," he said, "because I'm far away from home, but then I realized, no, I'm not." I said, "Thank you for telling me about that. That encouraged me to hear." What I want us to do as brothers and sisters in Christ is I want us to pray a prayer together out loud. It's a congregational prayer, all of us together.
Just repeat this. It will be on the screens there for you. Our Father, we remember that we were without hope and without you. We thank you that we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Jesus, you are our peace. We repent of the walls we have built that you died to destroy. May we be a picture of a new kind of humanity and a new kind of family so all the world will see your glory in the church from every tribe and tongue and nation. Amen. Amen? This is what it means to be a new humanity in a new family. If you need to know what it means to be invited into that family and find a relationship with God through his Son, when we dismiss in a moment, come by the Fireside Room in the atrium. We'd love to talk to you about it. For the rest of us, when we release our arms, let's go live like this is so. Blessings to you.