Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:15a “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity,. . .”
“Enmity” is the true essence of “the middle wall of partition.” To break down this wall, Jesus had to deal with hatred. Jesus came to abolish enmity–all hatred, all bigotry, all feuding. He accomplished this victory “in his flesh,” by his death on the cross (see CL 2:14).
Discord haunts humanity–Jews versus Gentiles, men against women, youth/elderly, children/parents, north/south, east/west, labor/management, blacks/whites, Japanese/Koreans, Turks/Armenians, Iraqis/Kurds, etc. Human nature has always excelled at building enmity-fences to alienate others.
Jews have never been the only ones who built barriers to shut others out. A Dutch proverb says, “Unknown makes unloved.” History has verified the adage. Greeks deemed their language the mother-tongue of the gods, and rated all peoples other than themselves as Barbarians, illiterates. Plato counted all non-Greeks as “our enemies by nature.” Livy wrote, “Greeks wage a truceless war against people of other races.”
Celts and Britons, ancestors to many of us, held Romans in such disdain that they vacated the most defensible fighting positions, and marched out into the English Channel to meet the advancing legions in an effort to keep lowly Romans from defiling native soil. Our stock has continued to have a problem with pompous pride. Even Kipling, composer of “If,” my favorite secular poem, coined a horrible phrase, describing certain non-Britishers as “lesser breeds without the law.” It pains me even to mention such distasteful things, but if we fail to deal with these matters, and refuse to expose error, we become guilty of a conspiracy of silence.
The Church has to speak against hatred and bigotry. These are the very things which crucified our Lord. In Jesus’ death we see the depth to which human hatred is fully capable of plummeting.
Sometimes the only way to reveal the full ugliness of hate is to let it run its full course. Remember the Prince’s rebuke to the Capulets and Montagues as they all gazed upon the lifeless remains of Romeo and Juliet:
“See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.”
Seeing what their hatred had wrought, the fathers joined hands and vowed to make golden statues of the two lovers–“Poor sacrifices of our enmity,” grieved Capulet. The supreme English poet correctly knew hatred needs to be exposed for the ugly monster it really is, but I disagree with his words, “Never was a story of more woe, Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
There is one “story of more woe.” In their suffering, Romeo and Juliet exposed the hatred of only two families; Jesus suffered “in his flesh” to expose all the enmity of all mankind of all time. Plus, He not only exposed hatred, He also absorbed it. Having taken the flesh common to us all, He absorbed into it the enmity common to us all. All hatred visited Calvary. We were all there, represented by Jews and Gentiles physically present.
Christ thereby accomplished the task for which He came to earth. He took enmity into His own flesh, and when He died, hate died. Satan, father of hate, architect and builder of middle walls of partition, had to be fought, and only one Soldier could successfully engage him. Lucifer attacked the Captain of our salvation. Jesus endured the invasion, bore the assault, absorbed “in his flesh” all the hatred and wrath Hell and Earth could muster.
Our dread Champion won the fray. Jesus died; enmity died. Jesus arose, but enmity remained dead. It holds no place in Christ’s resurrected life. Thus, when we are one with Him, hatred in us has to die for it cannot live in Jesus. His presence burns it away, for He abolished it in His flesh.
At home, at school, at work, do you want to stop hatred, and be part of the solution rather than part of the problem? If so, next time your heart is wounded, neither lash out nor criticize. Absorb the pain, hold it in, and run to Jesus for consolation. He knows how it feels to have to take enmity into self. His resurrected life can also dissolve the hurt.
To survive, hatred has to be passed on. To stop anger and enmity, someone must absorb the pain, and accept the excruciating task of stopping the vicious cycle of returning anger for anger, and of letting hatred bounce back and forth. Believers can accomplish this, with God’s help.
Eph. 2:15b “. . .even the law of commandments contained in
ordinances;. . .”
To break down “the middle wall of partition,” Jesus abolished enmity by exposing it, by absorbing it, and as we will now see, by removing laws which solidified the wall, and gave substance to it. The word “ordinances” points us to the ceremonial law. Jesus’ death did away with those outward things which were given by God to keep Israel distinct.
Notice, Jesus abolished only ceremonial law, not moral law (MT 5:17). The moral law is a timeless expression of the nature of God, and is written on every human heart (RM 2:15). Moral obligations are universal, and not dependent solely on the Mosaic Code. The moral law is still binding upon us. In fact, Jesus actually intensified the moral demands upon us.
In His death Jesus has done away only with the ceremonial law, the outward things which kept the Jews a separate and distinct people until Messiah came. The ceremonies–circumcision, feasts, sacrifices, washings, abstaining from certain types of food–were ordinances ordained by God to help the Jews remain a distinguishable entity. Unfortunately, the Jews abused, as well as used, the ceremonies. God meant for the Jews to be separate, but not haughty. The Jews turned their ordinances into badges of honor which gave them the right to disdain all other peoples.
The Jews took the gift of God and turned it into a cause for enmity. This still happens. God gives a keen intellect, and the receiver often disdains others. God gives material possessions, and the recipient looks down on the poor. A blessing is bestowed, but instead of humbly kneeling before God in gratitude, we sometimes gloat over others. Rather than leading to joy and gladness, talents can lead to jealousy and rivalry. Gifts often lead to bitterness and scorn. What was meant as a blessing becomes a poison.
Jesus condemned the abuses of the Old Testament ordinances. His coming also meant even their legitimate, originally intended purposes were no longer valid. Once Messiah came, the ceremonies were to be set aside, for they maintained a distance between Jews and Gentiles no longer needed. In nullifying the ceremonial law, Jesus has convincingly shown he wants hateful divisions to end. They have no place in the Christian economy.
Prejudice and enmity will be with us till Jesus comes again. Some would use this as an excuse to overlook the issue, to turn our heads and look the other way. Others, though, believe if it is with us to the end, we must fight it to the end. I agree with the latter group.
Fighting bigotry and hatred is difficult, but it is one battle we must never surrender, whatever the cost. The price we pay for yielding to the devil on this issue is too great to run the risk.
A terrible tragedy of the twentieth century was Mahatma Ghandi’s distasteful experiences with Christianity. He researched the Christian faith and read the teachings of Jesus. Favorably impressed, the young man of India decided to learn more. One Sunday morning, young Ghandi went to a church and climbed the long stairway which led to the auditorium. At the top of the steps, he was rudely stopped by men who told him he could not enter. He was of the wrong race and color. This man who had an impact on millions of lives in the second largest nation, remained to his death an admirer of the teachings of Christ, and left behind a haunting message, “I would have been a Christian, had it not been for Christians.”
Promote acceptance. Advocate openness. Love your neighbor as yourself. Tear down barriers. For these things our Lord died. Let the Church of the living God act like the living God of the Church.