SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
In Christ, God’s People Can Become One Family
Key Verse: You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. – Ephesians 2:19
Some scholars have advanced the idea that Paul may not have written the Letter to the Ephesians. However, no less a scholar than William Barclay insists that Paul did write this letter and that, in fact, “Ephesians is the Queen of the Epistles.” This is significant for our understanding of today’s lesson.
Barclay describes the Ephesians letter as the Queen of Paul’s letters because it presents the clearest picture of the all-sufficient Christ. In Ephesians Paul enlarges upon his brilliant portrayal of Christ in his Letter to the Colossians. Barclay believes Paul sent his Ephesians letter not simply to the Ephesians, but to all the eastern churches, “to tell them that the destined unity of all men and of all things could never be found except in Christ.”
Paul’s Ephesians letter is a ringing call to the church to embrace as its supreme task that of reconciling all people to God through Jesus Christ. God’s purpose is for division and hatred to end so that the entire world can be unified in Christ. The good news is for Gentiles and Jews alike and God’s will is for all to become one in Christ.
This is the focus of our lesson today: God’s desire that the church make disciples of all nations until finally we become one family in Christ. Clearly we are not there yet. Yet the purpose of God remains the same: that his people renounce our hostility, overcome our differences, and become one family.
Here is a task which is impossible for us in our own strength. Only “the blood of Christ” can bring us together and make us one. The old gospel song makes it clear: “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” What can give us unity and peace, instead of hostility and isolation? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Paul had a great vision – that the blood of Jesus would make “strangers” into brothers and sisters in the family of God. Ever since Christ died on the cross, that miracle has been occurring. People of all nations have found salvation in Christ and become brothers in God’s family. We must do all we can, individually and as a church body, to keep the doors of our hearts open to all who will embrace Christ and walk with us. Each of us can affirm that “everyone who belongs to Christ belongs also to me.”
Elton Trueblood, the great Quaker philosopher, invited me to address a gathering of Quaker pastors and their wives. I walked into a great ballroom of a Dallas Hotel to find 500 strangers already seated. As a United Methodist, I felt like an outsider and nervously tried to find a place to sit down.
The Quaker pastors were busy talking among themselves. They paid little attention to me. Finally I found an empty seat and sat down. Those at my table knew each other; I was a stranger. They nodded as I took my place and continued their conversations without including me.
After a few minutes the one person in the ballroom who knew me walked over to my table. It was Doctor Trueblood. He shook my hand, and then stood behind me, his hands on my shoulders.
He interrupted the conversations by saying politely to those at my table, “Dear friends, this is my friend, Walter Albritton. You will enjoy getting to know him.” Having said that, he returned to his seat at the head table.
I was no longer a stranger. The people at my table introduced themselves to me, and made me feel welcome. In an instant, I had been changed from an outsider to a friend. One man made the difference by affirming my worth and inviting his friends to accept me into their circle of love.
If we will look for opportunities to imitate Doctor Trueblood’s kindness, we can all find occasions to help strangers become brothers. We can look for people who feel like outsiders and invite them into the family. We can remember that the blood of Christ unites strangers in God’s family.
Perhaps Archbishop William Temple said it best: “If the gospel of Christ is true for any man anywhere, then it is true for all men everywhere.” Amen!
+ + + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)